Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tumwater Seeks Public Comment on Old Brewery Proposed Development

Above: The Old Brewery in Tumwater and the Deschutes River as seen today.

By Janine Unsoeld

The City of Tumwater is in the process of preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed redevelopment of an area that includes the Old Brewhouse.

The city has determined this redevelopment is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment.
The site is bounded by Custer Way to the south, the Deschutes River to the west, Capitol Lake to the north and the railroad to the east.

All comments to the city are due no later than October 20, 2014 by 5:00 p.m.

Comments on alternatives, mitigation measures, probable significant adverse impacts, and licenses or other approvals that may be required may be directed to: Tim Smith, AICP, City of Tumwater Planning Manager, 555 Israel Road SW, Tumwater, WA 98501; or (360) 754-4212. 

In comments, refer to case TUM-14-0741. Be clear and concise and if possible, identify possible solutions. For a full description of the plans and proposed alternatives, contact the City of Tumwater.

The city was recently awarded a planning grant from the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to review the potential for public/private partnerships as the site redevelops.  
“According to the grant, we have to be done by June 2015, but we’re targeting a deadline in spring, and hope to have an open house for the public to review the draft EIS by the early part of next year,” said Tim Smith, City of Tumwater planner, earlier this week.

Owner’s Old Brewery Vision
The Old Brewery site owner, George Heidgerken, proposes to make the site into a hotel, restaurants, office space, retail, and a craft brewing and distilling center. Heidgerken bought the 22 acre property about four years ago for $1.5 million. His property also includes land on the Tumwater Historical Park side of the river.

Heidgerken has suggested building a walkway bridge across the river into the park. Currently, the only access road down to the property is a gated, narrow one lane road off of Custer Way.

Similar examples of his vision include worldwide destinations, and, closer to home, Spokane’s Riverfront Park with its historic Flour Mill, an area that contains a host of shops, restaurants, sights and activities for tourists and locals alike.  
Old Brewery owner George Heidgerken will speak about his plans in a presentation on Thursday, October 16, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. at The Schmidt House, 330 Schmidt Place, Tumwater.  Doors open at 11:30 p.m. The event is open to the public. 
Above: The warehouse portion of the brewery has been significantly renovated. The extraordinary space has two floors, totaling about 36,000 square feet.
City of Tumwater – A City Divided
As I-5 cuts through the City of Tumwater, so are the city’s roles and responsibilities divided.

While the city is the lead agency in charge of determining the significant impact a redevelopment of the area would have on the environment, it is also a full partner in working with the current owner to redevelop the site into a craft brewing and distilling center.

A formal letter of mutual public/private partnership was signed in May by eight local organizations and their leaders expressly mentioning this as the primary purpose for their partnership.
The letter is signed by Old Brewery owner George Heidgerken, as president of Falls Development, and leading representatives of the Thurston County Economic Development Council, the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, the Port of Olympia, Washington State University Extension, South Puget Sound Community College, the Washington State University School of Food Science and the City of Tumwater.

No tribal, county, or City of Olympia organizations or representatives are listed as partners.
Additionally, according to the October newsletter of the Old Brewhouse Foundation, the city issued a contract in mid-September with a team led by an architectural firm to do a feasibility study on the craft brewing and distilling center goal. Part of their goal is to consider how the main Old Brewery tower can be purchased from its current owner.

The team’s report is expected to be presented to the city in January 2015. The Foundation says it will be “…monitoring the progress of this study and continue to encourage incorporation of a museum, beer-making demonstration opportunities and public gathering spaces as part of the project.”

The mission of the Old Brewhouse Foundation,  an organization created in 2008, is to facilitate development of a plan for acquisition,  restoration and public utilization of the Old Brew house area.

State Environmental Review Process
The City of Tumwater was awarded a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology to assist with conducting an environmental review of the former brewery area.

The planned action environmental impact statement allows a project-level environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) to proceed in advance of project permit application(s) within the planning area.
It will describe a range of development alternatives, evaluate the potential impacts of these scenarios, and identify required mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate significant adverse impacts.

Following its completion and the city’s adoption of a planned action ordinance, a specific development proposal can move forward without further environmental review provided the proposed development is consistent with the EIS and within the range of impacts that have been addressed.
Above: Construction equipment and maintenance debris was seen around the Old Brewery building earlier this week. Multiple areas with black tubing were seen in place trying to divert the water. The hillside is where a multiple story proposed parking garage would be in Alternatives 2 and 3. Tumwater planner Tim Smith said artesian springs are in the hillside and a 1000 stall parking garage as proposed in Alternative 3 would be about five to nine stories.
According to Chris Carlson, permit manager for the City of Tumwater, the concrete moats around the building are original to the building, to contain and divert water into a cistern, or large storage tanks, located under the building. This water was used in the brewing process.
Brewery District Vision

Through the Brewery District planning and visioning projects that have been conducted to date, the community has articulated a desire to make the brewery district a vibrant mixed-use destination.  
According to the City of Tumwater website, redevelopment of the historic brewery site has numerous public benefits. These include recreational opportunities and an expanded and integrated trail network. 

It also states that renovation of the historic tower represents civic pride in the brewery site and a successful redevelopment process retaining the architectural and aesthetic elements of the buildings are valuable for the site as living history. 
Potential areas to be considered in the environmental impact study includes: earth (a geotechnical analysis will be prepared), water (wetlands and shorelines), plants and animals; environmental health (former site contamination and hazardous materials); land use; historic and cultural resources; transportation, circulation and parking; public utilities; public services; economy, and a community policy analysis.

Washington Administrative Code 197-11-444 lists elements of the environment that could be considered.

Upper Picture: City of Tumwater planner Tim Smith provided a tour of the Old Brewery to a group of interested citizens earlier this week. When asked, Smith said the Old Brewery property was created on fill and the current parking lot is in a 100 year floodplain. He distributed a 1920’s era picture of the property, above, for reference.
 Proposed Alternatives

According to the City of Tumwater website, three build out alternatives will be analyzed for potential impacts over a 20-year planning horizon:

Alternative 1: No Action. The EIS is required to evaluate impacts associated with a No Action Alternative. For the purpose of the No Action Alternative in the Tumwater Brewery Planned Action EIS, it is assumed that development would occur within the site consistent with existing zoning. Any such development or redevelopment that is proposed within site in conjunction with the No Action Alternative would undergo environmental review on a project-by-project basis. Such projects would be subject to site-specific mitigation and potential SEPA-based appeals, without coverage under the non-project, Planned Action EIS process. Total lot coverage by existing buildings likely to be redeveloped is approximately 67,000 square feet (SF) with approximately 262,000 gross square feet (GSF) of buildable space. Alternative 2: Mixed-Use Redevelopment utilizing 493,500 GSF of space.
Alternative 2 is assumed to include redevelopment within existing buildings (262,000 GSF), a new parking structure (200,000 GSF) with approximately 625 stalls and rebuild two demolished structures (31,500 GSF). Prospective land uses would include: parking, office, retail, distillery, craft brewing, hotel, restaurant and a museum. Total lot coverage by buildings is approximately 140,000 SF. Improved vehicular access, pedestrian bridge over the Deschutes River, connecting trail system and boardwalk are also included in this alternative.

Alternative 3: Mixed-Use Redevelopment utilizing 763,500 GSF of space. Alternative 3 is assumed to include redevelopment within existing buildings (262,000 GSF), a new parking structure (320,000 GSF) with approximately 1,000 stalls, rebuild two demolished structures (31,500 GSF) and a new-build structure (150,000 GSF). Prospective land uses under Alternative 3 would be the same as those under Alternative 2, plus residential (apartments and condos). Total lot coverage by buildings is approximately 160,000 SF. Similar to Alternative 2, improved vehicular access, pedestrian bridge over the Deschutes River, connecting trail system and boardwalk are included in this alternative.

Above: The Old Brewery in Tumwater as seen on a tour earlier this week.
For more information about Tumwater's Brewery District Plan, go to the City of Tumwater's website at or see past articles at and use the search button.
For more information about the Old Brewhouse Foundation, go to

Great Blue Heron Rookery Saved From Development

Above: Volunteers Meghan Hopkins and her four year old daughter, Clare, clear ivy from land at the end of Dickinson Avenue NW, recently purchased by Alicia Elliott.

By Janine Unsoeld

The Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation announced this weekend that a Great Blue Heron rookery on Olympia’s westside has been saved.
In an open letter to the community this weekend, Daniel Einstein, founder of the Coalition, said that Olympian Alicia Elliott bought the property, thus preventing it from being developed into townhomes.

The group formed after it was announced that the city had received an application for a short plat and townhome development. The developer, Glenn Wells, proposed the construction of three, two-unit townhomes,Wells Townhomes, and a six bay detached garage.

The letter from the Coalition states that Elliott was moved by the threat facing the rookery.
…That began a journey which has led Alicia to purchase the 1.84-acre parcel that holds most, but not all, of the nesting trees. She is now under contract to purchase the adjacent 2.73-acre parcel to the north. This provides a critical buffer for the herons as they return for the winter breeding season. At the same time, we are in positive negotiations with the developer, who has been very receptive to the unique habitat profile of his property….”

Alicia Elliott is also known for purchasing vacant property on the corner of Division and Harrison, and creating the space into a vibrant community area now called West Central Park. Most recently, Elliott also bought the property of the former DeGarmo’s Pharmacy next to the park. That space is scheduled to be converted into a cafĂ© in the Spring of 2015.
Rookery's First Seasonal Work Party

At the Coalition's first seasonal work party held this afternoon at the rookery site located at the end of Dickinson Avenue NW, many volunteers came to thank Elliott and work to clear the site of ivy and other debris.
Einstein took time to briefly describe the property’s purchase and history of the area.

“The developer was in a reciprocal easement agreement with another property owner through this driveway to access utilities, sewer, electric, gas. Any future subdivision could buy into his utility. Buying this parcel takes that out of the picture because these properties will never be subdivided,” said Einstein.

“In 2009, the developer logged the property, going right through the heron's nesting trees, and created a 450 foot driveway. After it was logged, the blue heron population plummeted.”

Asked if he has found any dead herons, Einstein said yes.

“We did find dead chicks and eggshells. We can’t prove it was directly linked to the logging because herons are preyed upon by eagles, but part of that is, the clearing of the trees left the nests wide open for the eagles to get in. They are also very sensitive to noise and this was a huge disruption,” said Einstein.
Einstein said there are 14 nests on the property. “That means 28 adults, and each nest usually contains four eggs, so there are about 50 to 60 herons here at the height of breeding season.”

Einstein says their breeding season is in August and September.
“The herons are gone now to other places, but they’ll be coming back in January or February, so this is our window of opportunity to do work. We want to create a viable ecosystem, so there’s going to be some restoration.”

Einstein says the remains of a former homeless camp there have been cleared.
“The idea is to close this area off and create a habitat preserve. We’re going to have to create that because there isn’t one in city code. The herons need to be left alone so we can enjoy them down on the shoreline. We are also working to daylight Schneider Creek and restore it for fish passage….Eventually, we want to protect 80 to 90 acres,” said Einstein.

Above: Looking like Truffula trees, this tree has several visible blue heron nests.

While Einstein says he’s been having positive conversations with city officials, a few policies regarding codes and lax permitting have to be changed in order to make progress.

He also stressed the need to make the city’s urban forester position fulltime. City of Olympia Urban Forester Michelle Bentley has a heavy workload and is only available part-time, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.

Volunteers Make It Happen

“It’s so exciting!” said Debbie Hathaway, a board member of the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation.
“It’s been a very encouraging sign that neighbors care about wildlife corridors. It’s a sign of good things to come. It’s also a good example of how we can work together,” said Hathaway.

Northwest neighborhood resident Meghan Hopkins also came, and brought her hard-working four year old daughter, Clare.
“We can see the herons from our living room window. It’s inspiring to see community members come together for what they believe in for the creatures of the natural and human worlds, and balance out everyone’s needs,” said Meghan Hopkins.

For more information about the Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation, go to:
Back-To-Back Work Parties
Above: Seth Chance, Robyn Montgomery, and Alicia Elliott take a brief break from working while Ruben Males rakes the open space at West Central Park today. The park features edible and medicinal plants, which are scheduled to be labeled with small brass plaques.Today, workers harvested the last of the tomatoes, delicata squash, and strawberries of the season.

For more information about West Central Park, Alicia Elliott, and DeGarmo’s Pharmacy, go to and type key words into the search engine.