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.

Public Comment Sought for Tumwater Brewery Planned Action

Above: The Old Brewhouse property in Tumwater is located within the shoreline environment of the Deschutes River and encompasses critical areas such as steep slopes and wetlands. The City of Tumwater is seeking public comment on a draft environmental impact statement which addresses three proposed planned actions.

By Janine Gates

A handful of community members were present at an informal public meeting Wednesday evening at Tumwater City Hall to discuss a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for three land use scenarios that include the Old Brewhouse.

The City of Tumwater is seeking public comment on the document which addresses three proposed planned actions for the area. The public review and comment period for the document ends at 5:00 p.m., Friday, October 30.

Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet opened the meeting for information gathering and questions.

“The (Old) Brewery is a very important part of Tumwater. Historically, it’s in the heart of Tumwater….We’ve been doing a lot to position this property for future development, updating our zoning and comprehensive plan related to the property and the neighborhoods around the brewery, and taking a comprehensive look at the transportation requirements and improvements that will need to occur along with any future redevelopment.

“….To make historic preservation work, it has to be tied to a feasible development for the property….The issue is trying to figure it out….” said Kmet. 

The specific area of the EIS is a 32 acre piece of property bounded by Custer Way to the south, Deschutes River to the west, Capitol Lake to the north and the Union Pacific Railroad to the east.

The city doesn’t own the property - it is owned by George Heidgerken of Falls Development, LLC who purchased it about five years ago for $1.5 million. 

Heidgerken has yet to submit a formal proposal to the city but has presented the public with drawings of a massive mixed use development which includes a hotel, restaurants, residential units, and a 1,000 vehicle parking garage located directly behind the historic Schmidt House.

Above: The maximum build out development scenario proposed in the Tumwater Brewery Planned Action Draft Environmental Impact Statement. 

The EIS addresses the natural environment such as geology, wetlands and shorelines, and the built environment such as land use, transportation, historic, and cultural resources.

Community members asked questions about seismic retrofit of the buildings, floodplain areas, the trail system, transportation and access to and size of a proposed parking garage, stormwater collection and discharge, tree removal, the nearby Union Pacific Railroad, and more.

There are no specific projects formally submitted to the city, but three land use options have been identified, ranging from no action to a full build out for the site, the latter of which is the development vision of Heidgerken. 

Above: The RST Cellars building, left, on Custer Way in Tumwater is not considered historic and could be remodeled or demolished. In previous conversations with Little Hollywood, the current owner, George Heidgerken, has said he would start redeveloping this property first. Transportation improvements are needed in this area.

The EIS refers to two areas of the Brewery Planned Action Area: 1) the upper portion of the site where the RST Cellars building is located near the historic Schmidt House, and an existing parking lot already there, and 2) the lower portion of the site on which the historic brewhouse is located adjacent to the Deschutes River and Capitol Lake.

It is anticipated that the final EIS will be completed by the end of 2015 although City of Tumwater councilmembers do not necessarily need to choose and adopt a preferred land use alternative by the end of the year.

To provide comment on the EIS or for more information, contact the City of Tumwater, Community Development Department, 555 Israel Road SW,  Tumwater, WA 98501 (360) 754-4180, or .

Jon Potter, project manager for Falls Development LLC attended the Wednesday night meeting, and said that the planned action process and outcome will give Falls Development, LLC certainty as they progress with their plans for the area.

For more information and photos about the Old Brewery and Brewery District Planning, go to Little Hollywood at Articles dated October 12, 2014, “Tumwater Seeks Public Comment on Old Brewery Proposed Development,” and October 16, 2014, “Developer Heidgerken Shares Old Brewery Vision,” are just two stories. Many more related articles can be found by using the search button on this blog and typing in key words.

Tumwater's Old Brewery Stop Work Order Update

Above: Aerial of the Old Brewhouse property in Tumwater, after cleanup and straw waddle remediation. Property owner George Heidgerken of Falls Development LLC received a stop work order last year from the City of Tumwater for unpermitted construction activities in this area. Heidgerken recently received a permit to fill a hole, visible here in the southeast corner of the property, upper right, where the road curves. Photo taken on December 18, 2014.

By Janine Gates

After a stop work order was placed by the City of Tumwater at the historic Old Brewery exactly a year ago this month, the property may soon see some progress.

Chris Carlson, permit manager for the City of Tumwater, said that a permit was issued last month to Falls Development LLC on September 17 and the city approved a plan for the owner to fill a hole with 644 cubic yards of fill at the southeast corner of the Brewhouse building.

The property is owned by George Heidgerken of Falls Development LLC.

Construction equipment and maintenance debris was witnessed by Little Hollywood around the Old Brewhouse building on October 8 and October 18, 2014, indicating a dramatic difference in road construction and water diversion efforts between those two dates.

Multiple areas with black tubing were seen in place, diverting water which was streaming from the nearby hillside. The illegal, unpermitted activities were reported by Little Hollywood to authorities and a stop work order was placed on the property on October 28.

The city said this week that filling the hole is necessary to install groundwater monitoring wells, required as a part of soil remediation work associated with a paint shop that was formerly in that area. Groundwater monitoring results need to be reported to the state Department of Ecology.

Jon Potter, project manager for Falls Development LLC, said he and city representatives had a pre-construction meeting on site late last week and are ready to get started as soon as possible. He said he is working with engineering companies MC Squared Inc. and Associated Environmental Group, both of Olympia.

As for mitigation for the damage done last year to wetlands on the property, the city is waiting for the owner to submit a Joint Aquatic Resource Permits application and a SEPA checklist, which should be in shortly, said Carlson yesterday.

For more information and photos about the stop work order and the Old Brewery in Tumwater, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search button.

Above: The Old Brewhouse tower, built in 1906, as seen this week in Tumwater.