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Beer, brains and blasts

City Council hears area progress report

By DAVID MELSON - dmelson@t-g.com
Posted 1/28/23

Key figures behind several current and proposed ventures presented glowing pictures of progress to Shelbyville City Council members at an informational luncheon Tuesday.

Keith Weaver of Uncle …

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Beer, brains and blasts

City Council hears area progress report


Key figures behind several current and proposed ventures presented glowing pictures of progress to Shelbyville City Council members at an informational luncheon Tuesday.

Keith Weaver of Uncle Nearest Distillery, Dr. Laura Monks of Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Shelbyville, and Jeremy Carpenter of Tennessee Downs detailed plans for ventures they say will begin becoming visible by the end of 2023 and beyond.

Uncle Nearest projects

Weaver said Uncle Nearest is on track to become one of the nation’s most visited distilleries by 2026.

“We think we’ll eclipse them,” Weaver said of competitor Jack Daniel’s and other distilleries. “We want to surprise and delight visitors.”

The Humble Baron, touted by Uncle Nearest leaders as the world’s longest bar, will open March 23, Weaver said. Plans are for the facility to become a major music venue with Nashville’s Fender Guitar Co. handling booking.

Another goal for Nearest Green is attracting more tourist traffic from visitors to Nashville. More billboards will be going up soon, Weaver said.

But Weaver was particularly excited about a new Uncle Nearest-operated business restaurant for the northwest side of the Highway 82 Bypass-North Main Street intersection, encompassing the areas around the now-crumbling former Bedford Paper Box Co. building and the former site of Stewart-Potts Motors.

Classic Hops Brewing Co. will be strategically positioned “right where visitors turn to go to Lynchburg,” Weaver said.

“It’s a burger joint as well, but high-end.” Weaver explained as he proudly showed off an architectural rendering of the proposed building, prominently featuring a very large neon sign on top. He said the council will eventually be consulted about zoning for the sign.

The building’s curved roof will resemble what’s left of the box company building.

“We wanted to respect the history of the building,” Weaver said.

“It looks great. That’s exciting,” Mayor Randy Carroll told Weaver.

Work is projected to begin this year.

Weaver said Uncle Nearest whiskey is currently produced in Columbia by Tennessee Distilling Group, but they hope to begin producing onsite by 2024.

TCAT update

Monks, president of TCAT-Shelbyville, talked of the school’s growth over the past year and gave a timeline for the new campus planned for Highway 231 North.

She said several new programs and additional instructors have been added. In particular, she mentioned a pharmacy assistant program started with help from Middle Tennessee Pharmacy Services of Shelbyville.

“They’ve said they can hire all the graduates we can produce,” Monks said.

Construction will begin soon on Bedford County Higher Education Center, to be located in a separate building on the TTC-S campus, according to Monks. Motlow State Community College and Middle Tennessee State University will also have classroom space on the campus.

“Hopefully we’ll see some real earth moving around April,” she said, after the unoccupied house now in the location is moved or demolished.

Monks looks forward to completion of the BCHEC building and its message to passersby.

“They’re going to know Bedford County is serious about higher education,” Monks said.

Completion of the new TTC-S building is slated for spring 2025, with equipment moves beginning in fall 2024, the council was told.

Many of the school’s programs will have double their current space, Monks said.

Council member Gary Haile, who works as an employment counselor, asked if the school’s waiting list will be reduced by the larger capacity. Monks answered affirmatively.

Monks said drawing points for industries will be advisory committees that can advise each program’s instructors what specific courses are needed, and a multi-purpose production floor that can quickly be set up for any existing or incoming firm’s immediate needs.

The facility will also have a 175-person capacity event space, which Monks said Shelbyville sorely needs.

Tennessee Downs

Jeremy Carpenter of GC Performance Classics, who is leading the Tennessee Downs sports car campus project proposed for Eady Road, says he already feels at home in the Shelbyville area.

“I fel like I grew up here,” said Carpenter, who spent his youth in Indiana around sports cars and quarter horses.

Visible progress is promised soon. Carpenter said grading permit applications will be applied for within 60 to 90 days.

“We’ll start pushing dirt around May,” Carpenter said. “We’ll eventually employ around 160 on our campus. About 25 percent of our employees will come from Shelbyville. Most of our employees will be local.”

The overall investment in the facility is an estimated $50-$60 million in a three-phase buildout. A total of 160,000 visitors per year are expected, Carpenter said..

Carpenter emphasized races are not planned for the road course, which is intended for sports car owners to drive at high speeds in a safe, off-highway area. They are planning a karting facility, Carpenter said, which is not what the name implies.

“It’s not a race track or NASCAR facility,” Carpenter said. “We don’t plan to host sanctioned events.”

The facilities will be designed to blend in with the horse-related barns and structures in the northern area of Shelbyville, according to Carpenter.

GC Performance Classics has already opened Shelbyville facilities on North Main Street and Prince Street, Carpenter said. They will eventually be part of a large area of high-end sports car technical facilities at Tennessee Downs covering all aspects of vehicles.

Carpenter likes the potential tie-in of Shelbyville with a legendary racer and auto manufacturer.

“I’d like to hold a Shelby Fest and make it an annual event,” Carpenter said, name-dropping Carroll Shelby, known primarily for sports cars bearing his own name and Shelby-modified Ford Mustangs. Carpenter, an admitted fan of Shelby the racer and his cars, said plans for the campus include a Ford Garage restaurant.

A Tennessee Concours d’Elegance is in the works, Carpenter said. He compared the proposed event to the famed Pebble Beach yearly car show. A similar event made a $30 million economic area in another area, statistics shown to the council indicated. The event will include some of the world’s most expensive and rare sports cars.

He also hopes to open a “heritage museum” and invite students from around the area for tours. The museum will include local history as well as vehicles, Carpenter said.

The Tennessee Downs car show, held last year on the Shelbyville square, will hopefully become an annual event, Carpenter said.

New residents are likely to be attracted to the area by the facility, the council was told.

“Several car enthusiasts have told me they’re moving to the Shelbyville area when Tennessee Downs is complete,” Carpenter said.

Council member Bobby Turnbow asked Carpenter, who said he’d spent 19 years working in commercial construction and development, if local utility providers had been consulted.

“Did you ever think about infrastructure?” Turnbow said. “Water’s going to be an issue.”

Carpenter replied that utility providers were consulted. Plans are for the facility to have its own privately-owned system.

“We’d like to have our infrastructure ready for you,” Carroll said.

Plans are for what was referred to as the “north course” to be completed by September or October, Carpenter told the council.

The first-year phase will include “conmercial services” including auto repair and restoration firms, luxury garages, and the track, Carpenter said. Luxury garages, a fueling center, administration and welcome center buildings and Ford’s Garage wll be included in the second-year buildout, and a convention center, banquet hall, the museum, retail shops and the karting track in the third year.

“I’m really excited about this. For me, it’s definitely a dream,” Carpenter said.

Big hopes

“We have got to take advantage of when this many people are coming to this town,” Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership President/CEO Shane Hooper told the council following the speakers’ presentations. “We need to keep people staying and eating here.”

Hooper said too many Shelbyville visitors lodge and dine in Murfreesboro and Tullahoma. He said three hotel chains are looking at Shelbyville and reminded the council that more tax revenue from visitors reduces the burden on local residents.