OSF to build new facility; Bell’s OK’d

ESCANABA – OSF Healthcare System’s site plans for a $2.9 million physical therapy facility to be built next door to St. Francis Hospital were approved by the Escanaba Planning Commission on Monday.

OSF plans to construct a 14,513-square-foot building which would house physical and occupational therapy services as well as offices at 300 Willow Creek Road.

The rehab building will be a stand-alone facility and will not be an addition to the existing hospital because of additional expenses required, explained CEO Dave Lord. He also noted the new business will continue to make OSF competitive in the health field.

The site plans call for the facility to be constructed east of St. Francis with entrance ways from the hospital and off of Willow Creek Road.

During a public hearing on the proposed site plan Monday, one area homeowner – who complimented OSF for its quality services – also expressed concerns for increased traffic along Willow Creek Road because of the new business’ clients and employees.

Commissioner Todd Milkiewicz noted increased traffic is likely and goes hand-in-hand with development anticipated in that area.

Prior to approving the rehab center site plans on Monday, the commission also OK’d the proposed construction plans for a brewery at 3712 19th Ave. N. in the Whitetail Industrial Park.

Larry Bell, owner of Bell’s Brewery of downstate Comstock, is proposing to build a 11,550-square-foot state-of-the-art brewery and bottling facility there.

In a purchase agreement that closed Monday afternoon, Escanaba City sold 3.16 acres in the industrial park to Bell’s Brewery for $30,000.

The new business will be called the Upper Hand Brewery. Bell said the $1.3 million construction project will be put out to bid very soon with groundbreaking anticipated in early August.

Bell’s expansion to Escanaba – an investment totaling $2.5 million – is part of a $15 million company-wide capital improvement project.

Bell’s has a brewery and cafe in Kalamazoo, a distribution center in Galesburg, and a brewery and corporate office in Comstock. The company currently employs just over 200 people. The Escanaba business is expected to employ five people, said Bell.

Though Bell’s Brewery has a pub in Kalamazoo, the Escanaba plant will not have an area where beer is sold to the public. The law allows the company to operate only one brew pub in the state, explained Bell, adding the new facility here is being designed to conduct tours and offer free beer samples.

Bell’s products are sold in 18 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. Pike Distributors of Escanaba is the local distributor of the company’s ales and beers.