Change is brewing for RDA’s Justin Belliveau

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After six years with Salt Lake City’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA)—including the past eight months as Chief Executive Officer—Justin Belliveau has announced he’ll be leaving at the end of 2016 to build a business from scratch: A craft beer brewery, which he and his two partners plan to locate at a yet-to-be-announced site on the city’s northwest side.

“I’ve been working on a business plan for two years. And as much as I’ve loved working for the city, this finally became real in the past two weeks,” he said. “There’s such an alignment of factors right now to go forward. But this an opportunity that will demand a full-time commitment, and this was the best decision to make.”

Justin cites his redevelopment work on the new Eccles Theater and the Regent Street revamp as highlights of his time at the city. “I’ve worked with such a great group of people—smart and dedicated people who are making Salt Lake City a better place. I’ve loved these [redevelopment] projects,” he said.

In her role as RDA Chair, City Council Member Lisa Adams said Justin will be missed.

“Justin’s leadership on the development of the Eccles Theater and Regent Street helped make our dreams for that part of downtown a reality. He’s a key player in whatever he is asked to do for the city. His departure is a big loss to the RDA, and we wish him well in his exciting new endeavors.”

As it turns out, brewing ports and pilsners—and finding the right location to do so—will dovetail with his redevelopment skills. “It’s of the utmost importance to my business partners and me to be doing this in Salt Lake City,” Justin said. We’re dedicated to revitalizing an existing building, probably a warehouse, on the west side,” he said.

“The burgeoning craft beer market in Salt Lake City, the changing demographics, the steady push to revitalize neighborhoods and business districts—all of it is really exciting.”

Mayor Biskupski praised Justin in accepting his resignation. “Justin has been a strong and steady director and dedicated to our city’s economic growth and vitality. He has made an imprint on our city and we will miss him,” she said. But they also spent time talking about good beer.

The Mayor likes a good Belgian-style beer. So Justin has promised to brew a custom beer with her in mind: A Belgian Trappist dubbel brew, with 6% to 9% alcohol by volume.

“We’ll call it JB’s Dubbel,” he said.

His two partners include a longtime friend with 15 years’ experience in home and commercial brewing, and a neighbor who has launched four successful local businesses. “I’m the guy who can pull the land together and execute the deal,” said Justin, who earned a law degree and MBA from the University of Utah.

Craft breweries and brew pubs have been multiplying almost overnight in Utah. RedRock Brewery was an early one, opening downtown in 1994. Soon, Squatters, Epic, Uinta, Deseret Edge, and more opened in the city. Utah now has more than 30 small breweries and pubs—many of them in Salt Lake City–with at least 10 more on line to start up, according to Mike Reidel, whose Utah Beer Blog tracks such things.

Besides Justin’s brewery—which he estimates will take one to two years to get off the ground, Proper Brewery opened earlier this year in the city’s Granary District. Fisher Brewery and Kiitos Brewing, are set to open soon, also in the Granary.

Justin said his brewery will focus on perfecting a tap room with a small food menu. Future plans include expanding into to-go sales.

“We want to create beer as a draw and a level of food to compliment the beer,” Justin said. “This will be a gathering place in a neighborhood. Being in a neighborhood, bringing people together is just very important.”

So a growing respect for craft-brewed beer and the skills of neighborhood redevelopment aren’t so far apart after all.

Oh, and just so everyone knows how much he respects his future competitors, Justin happily named his current three favorite local beers:

  1. Uinta Brewing Company’s 801 Pilsner
  2. Deseret Edge Brewery’s Smokey the Beer port
  3. Epic Brewing Company’s Pheifferhorn lager

Good luck, Justin. And cheers!

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