A former church in downtown Springfield has become a new community hub. The third venture from Patric Campbell and Colby Phillips, the team behind Eugene’s Tap & Growler and Beergarden, the family-friendly PublicHouse combines food pods, a beer hall and a whiskey library.
“When we were originally looking at locations for Tap & Growler, we toured a bunch of properties in Springfield,” says Campbell. “There is an energy with Springfield that embraces new food and beverage venues, and we couldn’t wait to be a part of it.”
Part of Springfield’s Washburne Historic District, the former First Christian Church was bought in 2011 by the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) and turned into Sprout!, a local food incubator. The sale of the building allows NEDCO to invest in other community improvement projects in the area, and gives Phillips and Campbell the ability to use the full space.
“The building is amazing,” says Campbell. “There is a feel you get when you are on the property that is somewhat magical. It has always been a place where the community gathers and celebrations occur, so we felt we could continue that feeling while fully utilizing the entire property.”
The team envisions a “multitude of options” centered around three bars. That might be enjoying live music while the kids romp in the grassy, gated 16-tap Arbor Bar area (complete with picnic tables and a separate outdoor bar). It might be exploring global whiskies at the Whiskey Lab (such as a 25-year-old Laphroaig), or making new friends at the former worship space, now lined with booths and central communal tables. The upstairs choir loft can also be reserved for private functions.
Since opening in late July, the central BeerHall has 37 taps for beer, wine, cider, kombucha and soda. One-hundred bottled beverages are also available. Along with a small, specialty tap list, the Whiskey Lab showcases 100 bottles of spirits. While whiskeys from around the world are the primary focus, patrons can also savor select “fun” tequilas, gins, vodkas and aged rums.
Specializing in unique, neighborhood-focused food-and-drink spaces, Eugene creative agency Drawn retained the original wood architecture and stained glass in their design. Just as Tap & Growler and Beergarden were renovated with more than 75 percent salvaged and recycled materials, Drawn augmented the space with sustainability in mind “to preserve Sprout’s legacy while adding their own unique style.”
All restaurants that operated under Sprout! remain in the PublicHouse space. Building off their taphouse-and-food-pod success at Eugene’s Beergarden, food trucks will also be on site. Beergarden’s Holly Emery-Walen will curate the beverage selection.
While Springfield has long endured a rough-and-tumble reputation, ongoing combined efforts are changing that image for the better. The last decade has seen increased innovation and investment from civic, government, nonprofit and private-sector forces, all focused on improving the area’s safety, livability and diversity of businesses. Campbell and Phillips see PublicHouse as being a key element of “once again making downtown Springfield a community hub.”
“I’ve always wanted to help revitalize downtown Springfield,” says Phillips. “My mom and grandmother have told many stories of how vibrant downtown was in its heyday. I’m proud to be a part of the effort to bring it back to that level again. I believe that this building can play a pivotal role.”
PublicHouse is a true joint venture of resources, imaginations, capital and labor from both the Eugene and Springfield areas. Born and raised in Springfield, Phillips had his eye on the city since he and Campbell began exploring ventures together. Phillips’s wife is a teacher at a Springfield school, and Springfield-based investors also backed PublicHouse.
“It seems that everyone that visits downtown talks about how safe and friendly it feels compared to even five or six years ago when Plank Town took the initiative to open up,” says Campbell. “We hope that PublicHouse will provide one more destination to help the public feel compelled to visit.” •