Friday, October 16, 2015

Old Brewhouse Foundation Provides Solutions To Save History

Above: Structural repair and rehabilitation is needed in order to meet current building standards and prevent further deterioration and damage to Tumwater’s historic Brewhouse tower. The six story tower, as seen this week from Tumwater Falls Park, is 10,000 square feet in size with the entire facility encompassing 100,000 square feet. 

By Janine Gates

The Old Brewhouse Foundation was formed in 2008 as a nonprofit organization to bring together groups and individuals to develop a plan for the acquisition, restoration, and public use of the Old Brewhouse area.  

Their next meeting, which is open to the public, is Saturday, October 17, 10:30 a.m., at the Tumwater Timberland Library.

In August, the Foundation briefed the Tumwater city council at a work session on the group’s efforts. Among other suggestions, the group is proposing that the public purchase the entire brewhouse facility through a 20-year bond of $100 million over 20 years funded by a property tax. 

The Brewhouse tower and surrounding buildings are still viable structures, but need new roofs, seismic retrofits, and additional improvements.  At the very minimum, weather-proofing the buildings is necessary to include adding new roofs and windows to preserve the structures.

According to the Foundation, the initial brewhouse restoration is estimated to be $5.6 million, which reflects the cost of acquisition. The likely acquisition cost is a rough estimate of $2.5 million and includes some assumptions for project management costs.

No action is possible as long as the current owner, George Heidgerken, owns the building. Very little activity has occurred since his acquisition of the property about five years ago. The building's deterioration is reaching a point of no return, says the Foundation.

It is not known if George Heidgerken or his company, Falls Development, LLC, is interested in selling the property.

Above: The Old Brewhouse Tower and related buildings are in serious disrepair. Photo taken October 18, 2014.

Little Hollywood recently asked Rob Kirkwood, president of the Old Brewhouse Foundation, for specifics on the group's suggestions and interest in the property.

Kirkwood: George Heidgerken is still the owner of the Old Brewhouse property. The Old Brewhouse Foundation is asking the county to place the creation of a special purpose district and a property tax of about $0.35/$1,000 on the ballot.  The mission of the special purpose district would be to purchase and rehab the 1906 brewery complex into museums, art galleries, public gathering spaces and meeting rooms, large and small, over a period of many years.  We will ask Heidgerken about selling the property when we have a better idea about the county commissioners willingness to place the issue on the ballot.

Little Hollywood:  Please describe the group's idea of "rehab." Due to the condition, would the tower building be deconstructed and reassembled on site or in a different spot to accommodate this vision? It seems that everything you've described is similar to Heidgerken's vision. It seems there are multiple problems with that vision because of the location. Please explain.

Kirkwood: I agree there are multiple problems - all great community projects have challenges. Public recognition of the opportunities and challenges will create a facility that the community can be proud of.  The tower has been assessed by a structural engineer as actually in pretty good shape despite what you see.  It is built of concrete and brick, both materials that weather better than the wood roofs did.  It will require some major repairs and seismic retrofitting, but disassembly won't be necessary. Our project will be of a smaller scale than what Heidgerken is proposing. 

The Planned Action EIS that Tumwater prepared proposed three different levels of activity: 1. Do nothing; 2. Development within the existing foot print; 3. Expanding the foot print.

Heidgerken's published plans are at a strong Level 3 because the additional space is needed to create the synergy of commercial activities and support the private development of utilities, access and parking expenses. 

Our plan is closer to Level 2 - we would stay within the existing foot print other than building some level of parking facilities. Using public financing allows the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental success. The atmosphere would be more like a college campus instead of the traffic required for commercial activity.  The site does present challenges, but also some incredible opportunities. Our outreach at community events keeps finding people that are excited about museums, art studios, the brewery distillery institute and large public gathering spaces. 

According to the Foundation, and the meeting minutes of the August 25 work session, the first element of their plan would cost approximately $45 million in investment that could be converted to a countywide levy at $.30 to $.35 per $1,000 of assessed valuation costing the average homeowner of a $250,000 home approximately $75 to $87.50 annually.

During information sharing at public events, the response has been positive with most people conveying a willingness to pay the levy, says the Foundation.

Cynthia Stewart, another Foundation member, reviewed the possibility for the councilmembers of a bond issue of $100 million for inclusion of the large warehouse to be paid at six million for the next 20 years. The bond presents some challenges and includes different options as there is no available special district option that fits this specific scenario.

One of the options is a Park and Recreation Service Area (PRSA). Categories allowed by state statute are broad and include park, recreation facilities, and senior centers. Under that scenario through a countywide financing option, it would require all Thurston County cities to agree to participate and it would require a separate vote by the public. It would require a super majority, 60 percent, to pass.

A second option is under the Cultural Access Program recently passed by the Legislature. The option allows a 1/10th of one percent increase in sales tax countywide. The option wouldn’t generate as much money. The PRSA statute is broad and could entail the entire complex to include trails. The option is more indirect as it focuses on culture and population.

Stewart said the county commissioners have expressed interest in the proposal.

Above: The interior of the long building on the property that was built as a pulp mill could be used for high school reunions, weddings, and other special events, says the Foundation. The facility is 21,000 square feet and is 300 feet long and 70 feet wide.

For more stories and pictures of the Old Brewhouse, go to Little Hollywood,, and type key words into the search button.

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