Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stop Work Order at Old Brewhouse Draws Comments, Reactions

Above: The window may be closing on resurrecting the Old Brewhouse. Photo taken of the ground floor of the Old Brewhouse Tower on October 18.

By Janine Unsoeld

It was the first time he had been on site for perhaps a year when Paul Knight gave a tour of the Old Brewhouse in Tumwater for a group of citizens on October 18.
“I saw more deterioration of mortar on the bricks and rust on the beams. The window is closing on resurrecting that place,” says Knight.

Citizen complaints about significant, unpermitted road grading, water diversion and construction activity led to the City of Tumwater's stop work order at the Old Brewhouse on October 28.
Knight met Little Hollywood today at the Mason Jar, an eatery popular with brewery employees until the Olympia Brewery Company blew its whistle for the last time in 2003. 
Starting out as an hourly production employee in 1961, Knight went through a series of promotions to eventually enjoy a long career as the Brewmaster at the modern” brewery, the Olympia Brewing Company, from 1974 to 1997.

Above: Retired Brewmaster Paul Knight leads a tour of the Old Brewhouse on October 18, 2014.

Now 80 years old and more active than ever, Knight spends his time volunteering for the Old Brewhouse Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the Olympia Flight Museum, restoring old cars, and woodworking.

“It’s a grand old building,” he said as he helped provide captions for pictures taken of the Old Brewhouse on the October 18 tour.
The importance of the structure was recognized in 1978 when the property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2004, it was listed as one of "Washington State's Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties" by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Stop Work Order Comments, Reactions

Above: Unpermitted construction with old and new pipes at the base of the hillside near the Old Brewhouse on October 8, 2014.
The current Old Brewhouse owner, George Heidgerken, Falls Development LLC, has violated environmental regulations in the past.

According to a 1993 Seattle Times article, a U.S. District Court, Tacoma sentenced Heidgerken to five months' imprisonment and ordered him to pay a $4,000 fine for illegally storing 260 drums of hazardous wastes. Heidgerken was also ordered to serve a four-month term of home detention when he completed his jail term.
In June of that year, he pleaded guilty to storing the drums in Shelton without a permit in violation of federal law. The drums contained lacquers and stain used in furniture finishing.
In another case, Heidgerken was fined $10,000 by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for his failure to comply with a Forest Practices Act reforestation order in Grays Harbor County. That case dragged on throughout the 1990s and was settled in early 2000, when Heidgerken lost an appeal of the fine imposed by DNR in 1994. More information about that case is available at:

Local reaction to the stop work order has been steady since the news was first reported by Little Hollywood on October 30.

Michael Chun of Associated Environmental Group, a local engineering firm working with Heidgerken, was shocked when he saw recent pictures of the site on the Little Hollywood blog.
Chun said that his firm’s involvement with the project is focused on the hazardous material cleanup of metals contamination due to the painting of barrels with leaded paint. A former paint shop was located on the site, near the hillside that contains several artesian springs.

“Barrels were scattered all over the place,” he said. As part of a voluntary cleanup agreement with the state Department of Ecology, Heidgerken hired Chun’s firm to characterize the contamination and remove the top level of soil.

“Now we need to deal with the groundwater….We’re looking for dissolved metals. At this point, we don’t know if it’s contaminated. We need to set three resource protection wells,” explained Chun. Chun said he had wanted to place the wells this past summer, but Heidgerken delayed for unknown reasons.

“The sooner we get this started, the better. I am waiting for grading to get a drill rig down there….it’s a challenging site. I’d like to get started by the end of the year.” Chun said that Ecology requires that the water be sampled four consecutive quarters for a year.

Chun, who has led several successful environmental restoration efforts in downtown Olympia, said he hadn’t been at the Old Brewhouse property in quite a while. Chun reacted upon seeing the most recent Little Hollywood article about the old brewery. 

“Holy Cow!” Chun exclaimed when he saw the pictures. “ ….I can tell you right now I won’t be able to get a drill rig down there….George clearly went above and beyond what we needed,” said Chun. With a new perspective on the situation, Chun said he would visit the site in person as soon as possible.

Asked to comment on the stop work order, City of Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet wrote a response to Little Hollywood last week. He also sent his statement to the Thurston County commissioners, the Port of Olympia commissioners, and City of Olympia and Tumwater councilmembers.

“I’ve read your blog and appreciate your interest in the environment and this iconic site. I assure you that it is my desire to have any redevelopment of this site protect the historic assets while respecting the location from an environmental and cultural perspective. We continue to work with a number of experts to try and find that balance,” wrote Kmet.

“Tumwater is committed to compliance with all the applicable environmental regulations. Mr. Heidgerken needs to comply with those regulations. We will work with the applicable resource agencies and Mr. Heidgerken to address the situation with the wetlands. Similarly, his involvement in the study of the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center doesn’t waive his requirements for environmental compliance. The Center, for that matter, is not limited to the historic site and could be located in an existing building up on the hill. Our studies will be assessing the degree to which this site can be used for the Center or other viable activities.
“As we know from the redevelopment of numerous historic properties throughout the State and the Country, finding a viable reuse is critical to generating funds to preserve them. I hope you and your readers will work with us to help make that happen before we lose this iconic landmark. I am looking forward to the next step in this process, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, for an opportunity to identify and evaluate the issues related to redevelopment of this property in more detail,” said Kmet.
Rob Kirkwood, co-founder of the Old Brewhouse Foundation (OBF), a non-profit organized in 2008, also responded to the news:
“We can all agree that the Old Brewhouse site is a special place. The Old Brewhouse Foundation (OBF) recognizes that the Old Brewhouse site is where people have gathered for thousands of years to rest, celebrate, work and trade.  In addition, the site is geologically unique and also attracts a huge variety of wildlife.  The OBF mission is to gather all the stakeholders in the area and help create a facility that is sensitive to the site’s previous, current and future inhabitants. The site has many challenges and many interested parties that all have their own idea as to what the site’s future should look like. Your story highlights some of the challenges that will need to be addressed and recognizing all people’s interest will be an important part of the process….” said Kirkwood. Kirkwood also said that he assumed all the proper permits were in place for the work being done on site.

Kirkwood, along with Tumwater City Councilmember Tom Oliva, toured the Old Brewhouse site on October 18 with several citizens. Kirkwood, along with Oliva founded the organization in 2008 to “motivate the community in developing the Old Brewhouse for a public purpose.”

The Old Brewhouse Foundation has chosen not to take a formal position on Heidgerken's plans nor did the organization comment on the city's determination of significance and scope of the environmental impact statement for the area.

Above: Looking through a cavity from the third floor to the second floor of the Old Brewhouse Tower on October 18, 2014. The cavity is where a mash tub once operated and hung down towards the second floor. The Deschutes River can be seen out the window frame.

Market Study Results
According to Tumwater city council meeting minutes for October 14, a market study on the brewery properties north of Custer Way was recently completed to explore potential types of uses and marketability of the site.

Richard Gollis and Adam Seidman of The Concord Group summarized the market study results for the council. The team identified the potential for a wide array of land uses at the site, taking advantage of existing structures as well as building new ones.
The group says there is approximately 400,000 to 500,000 square feet of supportable development over a 10-year period. A phased in, mixed use approach could be developed along Custer Way as an early catalyst, as well as working through the concept of the craft brewery and distilling center.

The group said that of the three proposed land use alternatives identified by the city, the third alternative, the full mixed use redevelopment alternative, would maximize the area's potential. A mixed use project off Custer Way, including the Cellars Building at 240 Custer Way, and the historic brewhouse, could serve to bring people to the area.

The analysis considered different land uses at the site, such as an apartment building, condominiums, hotel, retail, office, and special destination uses, such as the craft brewery and distilling center.

Limiting development to renovation of the historic structure was not recommended because of the amount of infrastructure development required for the site.

The consultants said that the reason people would come to the area is to enjoy retail and hospitality, and would want to live here because it is near historic structures and the Deschutes River. Educational institutions would be an important component of the property’s future success.

City Administrator John Doan commented on the importance of the craft brewery and distilling center or another special destination use to help accelerate the development timeline.

Above: The five story RST Cellars building at 240 Custer Way in Tumwater is not historic. It is part of the “modern” brewery complex and built in three sections in 1966, 1967 and 1970. New cellars were built as needed to store beer. The building is currently owned by George Heidgerken, Falls Development LLC.
In previous conversations, Heidgerken has said he anticipated starting his redevelopment work on the RST Cellars building on Custer Way.
For more information about the Old Brewhouse Foundation, go to 
For past stories about the Old Brewhouse, go to and use the search engine to type in key words.