Friday, April 1, 2016

Tumwater Old Brewery Public Hearings: Tower Acquisition and Land Use Actions

Above: A picture from the Washington State Archives of the Old Brewery in the early 1900s. Budd Inlet and the Deschutes River, seen here, was tidal, before the creation of Capitol Lake and the dam in downtown Olympia. Ships came to the Old Brewery, offloaded grains and supplies to businesses, and brought products to market.

Former Olympia Brewing Company brewmaster and brewhouse historian Paul Knight was asked to describe the scene: “The picture is from mid-1906 before it was complete for brewing. Later in ‘06 the bridge was built over the water way.  The picture does not show the brewery support system but shows the pilings supporting the wharf in front of the building. It shows the brackish water surrounding the structure indicating high tide. The river did run between the wharf and the roadway in the foreground but with the tide out it would be a channel in the middle. The brewery building was built on large stone and concrete pier blocks that extend down to bedrock...the whole area was eventually built up with fill.”

By Janine Gates

Two separate public hearings regarding the Old Brewhouse in Tumwater will be held by Tumwater city council in April. 

Both meetings are at 7:00 p.m. meetings in the Tumwater council chambers at 555 Israel Road SW, Tumwater.

A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, April 5, regarding the possible acquisition of the six story, 110 year old tower that is the symbol of Tumwater.

The city council could take action following the hearing, which would authorize the mayor to sign the agreement.

A 14 point draft letter of agreement between the city and Falls Development LLC is available on the City of Tumwater:

The property is owned by Falls Development LLC. It was recently revealed during a public meeting by the property's owner, developer George Heidgerken, that he may donate the tower to the city.

Among other points, the letter states that Falls Development will deliver to the city statutory warranty deeds on or before April 30 that creates a separate land parcel which includes the Old Brewhouse and necessary easements for site access and utilities, and a public trail and boardwalk.

The city and Falls Development will negotiate future agreements to share proportionate costs of construction for the utilities and access road necessary to rehabilitate the Old Brewhouse.

The city will reimburse Falls Development one million dollars for infrastructure improvements if Falls Development files a complete building permit application by January 1, 2019 and obtains a certificate of occupancy of the Warehouse Building by January 1, 2021. This payment will be credited against the city’s proportionate costs.

The letter also states that the city will explore funding options for future construction of a pedestrian bridge that extends from the property to the Tumwater Historical Park and agrees to work with Falls Development in a future agreement for access to public restrooms at the project site.

The acquisition commits the city to rehabilitation of the Old Brewhouse structure with an estimated cost of $5.6 million dollars for full use.

Potential sources of funding include grants through various state programs, private donations, and tax credits. Operations and maintenance would be additional.

The Old Brewhouse is a historic landmark, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The structure has been on a “watch list” by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Planned Action Land Use Hearing

There will be a separate public hearing on Tuesday, April 19 on the proposed Planned Action land use ordinance, which impacts the 32 acre area around the Old Brewhouse, also owned by Heidgerken and his companies.

For more information, go to the City of Tumwater website at or contact Heidi Behrends-Cerniwey, Assistant City Administrator/Brewery Project Manager at (360) 754-4128 or e-mail at

For more photos and information about the proposed planned action for the historic property and the city’s negotiations with Heidgerken to obtain the Old Brewhouse tower, former brewmaster Paul Knight, and more about the Old Brewery, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search button.

Editor's Correction, April 2: No, that wasn't meant to be an April Fools joke. The original article posted on April 1 said that the acquisition includes the tower and several other structures on the property. That was incorrect. The acquisition is just for the Old Brewhouse tower building. Little Hollywood strives for accuracy and greatly appreciates the interest of sharp eyed readers who know how to read complicated documents.

Above:  A mostly roofless and windowless Old Brewhouse is drenched in rain on March 14, 2016. Photo taken from the edge of the Deschutes River, in a very soggy Tumwater Historical Park.