Sycamore Brewing opened five years ago in a renovated auto garage in South End. Over time, the brewery’s become a wildly popular neighborhood hangout, thanks to its expansive beer garden and the fact that it’s right next to the rail trail. Now, Sycamore’s owners are set to embark on another chapter.
Justin and Sarah Brigham have sold the 1.6-acre property on Hawkins Street to Atlanta developer Portman Holdings for $9 million, county property records show. Last year, Portman bought the Shook Kelley site next to Sycamore $12.7 million.
Sycamore will move into a new, larger space on the first two levels of a 250-foot tower Portman is building, Sarah Brigham tells the Agenda.
The goal is to have a seamless move into the new space, meaning the brewery will not close amid the transition. Sycamore will operate in its current building at 2161 Hawkins Street for another three years or so, Brigham expects.
After that, Sycamore’s current building will eventually be torn down. It’ll likely be replaced with an office/retail development, says Travis Garland, Portman’s director of leasing.
Sycamore’s new space will have:
- A 7,200 square-foot taproom, roughly four times larger than its current taproom
- An expanded beer garden adjacent to the light rail
- A 6,000-square-foot second level with a full bar and private events space
- More bathrooms
- A full cocktail menu
- A cafe serving Sycamore’s house-made coffee
- A full kitchen led by Matt Krenz, the chef behind The Asbury uptown
In its new building, Sycamore will also open up into a 14,000-square-foot food hall. Portman has not lined up any tenants for the hall yet, Garland says.
“It is really hard to capture the enthusiasm we have for the vibe of our new space in a few short words,” Brigham said. “On every level, we are either enhancing or enlarging our offerings.”
Zoom out: The sale of the Sycamore property comes as South End continues to rapidly evolve.
On the other side of the light rail, Columbia developer Edens is wrapping up its overhaul of Atherton Mill. In addition to apartments and restaurants, the development will have popular retailers such as Madewell, Barry’s Bootcamp, and West Elm. A block or two north of Sycamore, on Camden, Lowe’s is building a 23-story tower that will serve as its new tech hub.
At its new tower at 2151 Hawkins, Portman will have up to 7,000 square feet of other retail space on the ground floor next to Sycamore, Garland says. On the floors above, Portman has about 280,000 square feet of space for yet-to-be-named office tenants. Portman plans to break ground on the site later this year.
In place of the old Sycamore building, Portman likely will build an office/retail development, a smaller, roughly 240,000-square-foot version of the one next door at 2151 Hawkins, Garland says.
“Part of our attraction to this site was Sycamore being next door. That’s a fabulous amenity,” Garland said.
“This conversation started as neighbors about what we were going to create. It evolved into an opportunity to really … continue to build on what they already started building.”
Sycamore’s vibe: In its current spot, Sycamore truly is not anything fancy. Nonetheless, day-drinkers and happy-hour goers cram its wooden picnic benches every day. Young couples with dogs and kids pack its gravel parking lot on the weekends. Acoustic bands jam on Sycamore’s modest stage overlooking its beer garden.
A move into a sleek, brand-new office tower makes one wonder whether Sycamore risks losing its original vibe.
The Sycamore brand is about having a good time while you’re enjoying a beer, and that won’t change, Brigham says. The move will allow the brewery to grow its business, though.
Flashback: South End wasn’t always the hot neighborhood it is today.
When the Brighams signed the lease for the Sycamore building in 2013, the neighborhood “was a lot more raw,” Sarah Brigham says. The building was surrounded with barbed wire. There was barely any other retail nearby.
A year after opening in 2014, the Brighams bought their property for $2.6 million, property records show. The couple soon announced plans to expand production, the brewery’s beer garden and taproom.
The year of that expansion, 2015, Sycamore brewed 1,960 barrels. Since then, the brewery’s growth has accelerated month after month, Brigham says. Sycamore is expected to finish the year up 200 percent over last year, right around 15,000 barrels, she adds. All of Sycamore’s brewing is now handled at its North End location.
Last summer, Sycamore announced plans for its new coffee line called Beach Shack. The brewery plans to launch its first seltzer, Bubs, this spring.
As Sycamore has grown, so too has its neighborhood. New breweries and taprooms have cropped up all over — Wooden Robot, Bulldog, Hoppin’ and Suffolk Punch, just to name a few.
Corporations have turned their sights to South End in recent years, too. In addition to Lowe’s, Dimensional Fund Advisors, LendingTree, Krispy Kreme and EY are a few of the companies that either plan to or have stared establishing a South End presence.
“In some ways, we grew with the neighborhood,” Brigham said. “We’ve seen this incredible evolution of the neighborhood, and as the neighborhood has grown and transformed, our company has grown and transformed as well.”
This story was updated on November 18, 2019.