Above: For the first time, Old Brewery owner George Heidgerken meets Peter G. Schmidt Jr., 92, today after Heidgerken’s presentation. Schmidt was born in the Schmidt House and is the grandson of Leopold F. Schmidt, who built the Old Brewery in 1895.
“I’d like to see you succeed, but it’s going to be rugged,” Schmidt told Heidgerken. Schmidt shared stories about growing up near the brewery.
“When Olympia beer first hit Seattle, my god, they just couldn’t ship it fast enough….Every year, production doubled in size….” said Schmidt.
It was a full house at the historic Schmidt House today in Tumwater as community members came to hear George Heidgerken speak about his vision for redeveloping the Old Brewery property. His Falls Development LLC project manager, Jon Potter, joined him. A slideshow chronicled the Old Brewery’s history from 1906 to the present.Heidgerken joked that while doing research for the purchase years ago, he found out why no one bought it, saying it would easily cost half a billion dollars to renovate. The more he found out about its legacy, however, the more intrigued he became with the possibilities. Heidgerken owns about 35 acres of the area on both sides of the Deschutes River, including 11 acres of water.
“It’s a real treasure….To restore the buildings, we have the original plans and photos to be authentic….From an economic standpoint, it’s something of a leap of faith…the road, access, utilities, everything’s different (now).”Admitting that nothing at the site meets current codes, Heidgerken said that despite the challenges, it’s a remarkable opportunity. The hillside, he says, hasn’t been maintained in decades and said a parking garage would provide needed parking and stabilization. Groundwater monitoring wells will be installed soon.
“This is a big deal for Tumwater and the county…it’s a unique facility…it’s time that somebody does this stuff.”The City of Tumwater has determined that redevelopment of the property will have an adverse impact on the environment and is seeking public comment on the scope of an environmental impact statement for the site.
The deadline is Monday, October 20, by 5:00 p.m. Comments on the three land use alternatives identified for the site may be directed to: Tim Smith, AICP, City of Tumwater Planning Manager, 555 Israel Road SW, Tumwater, WA 98501; firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 754-4212.Heidgerken says he doesn’t know where the process will end up, but there is interest in the property from restaurants, educational institutions and hoteliers. He says the site has the potential of being a nationally known destination, like Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, and can serve as a catalyst for other development.
Above: The Old Brewery as seen on October 8, 2014 during a tour of the Tumwater property near the Deschutes River.
Frequent murmurs of approval were heard while Heidgerken gave his presentation, and someone in the audience remarked, “It's about time.”
Heidgerken says he has spent $1 million cleaning up the property and $3 million in remodeling efforts. He cited the project’s possible benefits such as future public access to trails and the water, including the outer edge of South Capitol Lake, a craft brewing and distilling center with interest from local educational institutions, dorms for students and residential apartments or condominiums for longer term residents, space for art and antique shows, concerts in the park, and more.Asked about the timeline of the project, Heidgerken said that the permit process dictates the pace. “It may look like we’re not doing anything on the outside, but on the inside, we’re busy….” He stressed his commitment to the project, and mentioned similar projects he is involved with are thriving.
“I own three sites on water, all historical, and this is in the category of ‘the right thing’…. This is a high priority – I’m well-funded to do it.”Potter said that Heidgerken owns the property outright and is under no interest rate pressure to rush things. Heidgerken said he and Potter have a 10 – 15 year relationship of working together and want to do it the right way. Both welcomed public input into the visioning process.
He said his Oregon City, all-waterfront project, the site of the former Blue Heron Paper Company, with 25-30 acres at the end of the Oregon Trail, has attracted national attention.“For 152 years, there’s been no public access to the (Willamette) Falls…they jumped on it….” he said.
Heidgerken also mentioned success with his ownership of a 70 acre, water strategic piece of the Chambers Bay golf course near Tacoma.
Above: A drawing by Falls Development LLC depicts a remodel of the building at 240 Custer Way, also known as the RST Cellars Building, flanked by housing that could either be dorms for students or apartments, depending on market interest and economic considerations.
Rob Kirkwood, a founding member of the Old Brewhouse Foundation attended the presentation, and said he didn’t know about Tumwater’s citizen comment deadline of October 20 until someone referred him to the Little Hollywood article published on Sunday, October 12.“I knew a deadline was coming up but I didn’t know when until I was referred to your article….We need more time to comment….it’s a regional asset, a regional responsibility. We need to ensure public access. It could be a county museum, like a Museum of South Sound History, Industry and Art,” said Kirkwood.
The Old Brewhouse Foundation is having its annual meeting on Saturday, October 18, at Timberland Tumwater Library, 7023 New Market Street. The meeting is open to the public and new Foundation members are always welcome, said Kirkwood. A tour of the Old Brewery for Foundation members starts at 3:30 p.m.Longtime Tumwater resident Nancy Partlow was already aware of the October 20 public comment deadline and will be submitting formal comments to the city.
“I’ve done some research about the 625 or 1,000 stall parking garage proposals in Alternatives 2 and 3. Just for comparison, the Tumwater Walmart has 730 parking stalls,” says Partlow.“The historic brewhouse site is the last place in Tumwater that a hotel and parking garage should be built. The Deschutes Estuary below the lower falls is Tumwater's most important natural area. Its biological diversity is unmatched within the city.
“Many environmentally destructive things have been done to the Deschutes River and floodplain over the last 100-plus years, starting with the old brewhouse complex, which would never be allowed to be built where it is today. Permitting high-intensity commercial redevelopment of the site, accessible by car from either an on-site parking garage or down the narrow road that runs adjacent to the fence line of Tumwater Falls Park, is a bad idea,” says Partlow.Audience member Pat Rasmussen stayed after the presentation to speak with Heidgerken about the Native American history of the area. Rasmussen has extensively researched the presence of the Steh-chass Indians and has compiled a sourced paper about the Nisqually tribe. Heidgerken listened, and welcomed her input.
Asked for her thoughts about the redevelopment proposal, Rasmussen said, “The old brewery and Tumwater Historical Park are located on an ancient permanent village site inhabited for thousands of years by the Steh-chass Indians. This site is far too sensitive for the scale of development proposed. The steep slopes behind the brewery are only held in place by the trees….Removing them for development could cause a landslide. The narrow road into the brewery has a steep drop-off to the river below. Any work on that road could cause a landslide directly into the Deschutes River,” said Rasmussen.In a telephone interview late last week with John Doan, City of Tumwater’s executive administrator, Doan described to Little Hollywood the challenges of the Brewery District and redevelopment plans:
Above: A Falls Development LLC conceptual drawing for the Old Brewery area features housing along the railroad, a two lane road access, a parking garage, boardwalk, and more.
“….There’s community frustration and it’s not getting any easier with time. … People were proud about the brewery – it was an attraction. In the 60’s and 70s, about 900 people worked for the (new) brewery, and most lived no more than a quarter of a mile or half a mile away. Many walked to work or took the trolley. You didn’t have to find parking for 900 people….There’s a challenge of remodeling old buildings to fit today’s world. It’s a balance, and it’s complicated in the sense that there’s a lot of moving parts….”
Asked about the scope of the letter of mutual partnership signed by various entities to create a craft brewery and distilling center, Doan said not to worry about the partnership's limitations or the location of the center – it’s about programmatic cooperation.
“It’s a run at something there’s a market demand for – it’s really a field that's very hot….In the end, everybody wants to see something happen down there.”
For more information, contact the City of Tumwater at www.ci.tumwater.wa.us.
For past articles about the Old Brewery and Tumwater’s Brewery District plans, go to www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com and use the search button to type in key words.
For more information about History Programs and Schmidt House tours, contact Don Trosper, Public History and Development Manager, (360) 786-8117 or email@example.com or the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, (360) 943-2550 or www.olytumfoundation.org.
Above: Inside the Old Brewery tower as seen on October 8, 2014 during a tour of the Tumwater property.
Editor's Note, October 18: A caption for this story for a Falls Development LLC conceptual drawing misidentified the proposed building depicted. It was identified as the brewery tower. It is the 240 Custer Way building, also known as the RST Cellars building. The error has been corrected.