The owner of a popular East Side restaurant plans to open a downtown brewery and offer European-style lagers to consumers in Greater Des Moines and other markets.

Robert Tursi, who has owned and operated Tursi’s Latin King since 1983, said he has a contract to purchase three Walnut Street properties, including a historic building at 1514 Walnut St.

Constructed in 1929, that two-story building once housed a soap manufacturing operation operated by millionaire cosmetics-maker Fred W. Fitch. The restaurateur said he is providing seed money to renovate the property and open Exile Brewing Co. next spring.

R.J. Tursi, Robert Tursi’s 24-year-old son and executive sommelier at the Latin King, will eventually buy into the new business as it hires a brewmaster, locks down financing and searches for stakeholders.

“We will be looking for investors,” Robert Tursi said. “There have been developers for years wanting to go in there and demolish it and build something new. We are going to bring the building back to the way it was in the 1920s. It’s to cool a building to tear down.”

A bar and restaurant, with a limited selection of wine and “beer-drinker-friendly food” is also part of the Tursis’ plan to provide homegrown brews to local bars, restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores, R.J. Tursi said.

“We are going to go over the top with the number of kegs that we buy,” he said, noting that for more than a year he and one of the existing restaurant’s bartenders have been experimenting with a homemade brewing system in Robert Tursi’s garage.

The wine steward is working with a Kansas City-based consultant to select a brewing expert as they refine and perfect the process for commercial purposes.

The proposed location is a block south of the green space of Western Gateway Park. “We’re hoping that it turns into another great entertainment district downtown,” R.J. Tursi said. Though Exile Brewing will serve food, host public and private events, seat 90 or more people, and operate an outdoor patio, the Tursis said their primary focus will be packaging and distributing at least four flagship beverages and a number of seasonal beers to other businesses.

“Our main focus without a doubt is going to be making a great beer for the city of Des Moines,” R.J. Tursi said. “We are not going to be just a beer pub.”

Asbestos abatement is under way at 1514 Walnut St.

In April, the Polk County assessor’s office lowered that building’s 2011 assessed value to $66,000. In 2010, the building’s assessed value for tax purposes was $277,200, which was appealed and lowered by the Polk County Board of Review to $71,000, according to deputy assessor Rod Hervey.

On May 25, the Board of Review will consider lowering the assessed value of properties at 1514 Walnut and 1526 Walnut, as well as the assessed value of 1510 Walnut.

“Those are three valuations that are under appeal,” Hervey said.

Exile Brewing plans to pursue state and federal historic tax credits to help offset the cost of the build-out. The company picked GE Wattier Architecture Inc. as the project architect and is in the process of securing a general contractor. It also plans to construct eight market-rate loft apartments on the second floor.

R.J. Tursi said the company likely will hire 25 to 30 employees.