Monday, October 19, 2015

Going…Going…Gone! The Olympia Brewery Sold to….

Above: The auction sign as seen at the “modern” brewery on Sunday.

Auction Time for “Modern” Tumwater Brewery

By Janine Gates

It’s a diamond in the rough and the outcome of Tumwater’s land use future is in someone’s hands.

The sprawling “modern” brewery is hard to miss from any direction and it’s now up for auction. Dull beige buildings with broken windows boarded up with plywood, the vacant eyesore is taking up vast acreage in the heart of the City of Tumwater.

Four separate parcels are for sale with three buildings on 7.2 acres with frontage on the Deschutes River, two industrial warehouses on 22.2 acres with rail service via Union Pacific and two vacant lots are zoned multi family. The buildings were built anywhere from 1930 – 1973.

Over 300 brewing tanks are located throughout the buildings. The main brew house contains the former brewing operation, fermenting vat storage and cellaring. In the six story “M” Cellar building, each floor is devoted to large stainless fermenting vessel storage with the majority of vats still in place.

Real estate agent Troy Dana has been marketing the location for years as a possible mixed-use combination of brew pub, contract brewery, winery, distillery, office, restaurant, and retail space.

The auction will be held Wednesday, October 28, 11:00 a.m., at the Red Lion Hotel, 2300 Evergreen Park Drive, Olympia.

Above: The back of the RST Cellars building on Custer Way as seen from Tumwater Falls Park last week. The fence delineates the park and the thin, one lane road down to the Old Brewhouse. The widening of this road, required to meet current standards for transportation and emergency vehicles, would result in the loss of trees along Tumwater Falls Park.

Public Comment for Draft Old Brewery Plans Due October 30

Meanwhile, the historic Old Brewhouse is not readily visible unless you’re on top of it. It too is old and vacant except for occasional trespassers and sits like a medieval castle, deteriorating on the shores of the ever changing Deschutes River. 

Visible from Tumwater Historical Park, peek-a-boo views of the six story tower can also be seen from Tumwater Falls Park. 

Owner George Heidgerken has made public his desire to fully develop this property to the maximum intensity possible. 

The Old Brewhouse would never be allowed to be built at its current location today, according to current shoreline management and environmental regulations, and yet two out of three draft planning options presented by the City of Tumwater are to explore significant mixed-use redevelopment of the area.  

A deadline for the public to comment on these scenarios is October 30.

The first scenario, a “do-nothing” approach, assumes the development would occur within the site consistent with existing zoning and development regulations. Any development that occurred would require the repair of existing structures.

The second scenario, one that the Old Brewhouse Foundation prefers, is still an impressively built out design, and includes a parking garage for 600 vehicles.

The third scenario, preferred by property owner George Heidgerken, and his development company, Falls Development LLC, is a full build out.

At an informational public meeting last week hosted by Tumwater city staff, former Olympia Mayor Bob Jacobs suggested a fourth scenario, which is not in the city’s plan: move the historic, six story Old Brewery tower, brick by brick, and rebuild it in a different location altogether.

“All three of the alternatives they're considering all seem impractical to me…Another possibility would be where the newer brewery stands now. That building could be torn down and replaced by new development with the old tower as a centerpiece and visibility from the freeway would be excellent…other possibilities exist too, of course.  A public process would produce lots of ideas for evaluation. Even the airport area or the city center area,” says Jacobs.

City of Tumwater's permit manager Chris Carlson said that in the 25 years he has been at the city, he has never heard that approach suggested. As for the end-of-the-year limitations for the state Department of Ecology grant that funded the city’s planning action, Carlson said he did not think there was time to assess such a possibility.

Above: Tumwater Falls Park, owned by the Olympia-Tumwater Foundation. This view could change dramatically if a planned action proposal by the City of Tumwater is approved.

At the time the Old Brewery was built in 1906, Model T cars were popular. Today, the creation of any access to a proposed parking garage by the Old Brewhouse would require that the narrow road, currently about 15 feet wide, be widened to 32 to 36 feet. 

In a conceptual cross-section of the proposed road leading down to the old brewhouse, a sidewalk is also shown as being a minimum of six foot wide, but the preferred width is eight feet wide, with four foot planters on the other side, said city staff.  This will require a lot of trees to be cut down.

Nancy Partlow, a Tumwater resident, also attended the city meeting, and sees problems with many aspects of the scenarios presented by the city.

“For years I've heard Tumwater city staff and elected officials say that the Old Brewhouse would never be allowed to be built at its current location today due to the environmentally sensitive nature of the site....

The combined footprints for a parking garage, residential units, and access roads to the Old Brewhouse site constitute an excessive amount of forest destruction in Tumwater's most environmentally and historically important area.
“The access road to the Old Brewhouse appears to be nearly a third of a mile long.  For about two thirds of that length, the road parallels the Deschutes River and the Tumwater Falls Park fence line. Some of the trees seen above the river from inside the park aren't actually in the park itself, but on the Falls Development LLC property next door.  A great number of those would have to be cut down to widen the road.

“An additional access road down to the proposed parking garage is being suggested from the north end of a parking lot owned by the Olympia-Tumwater Foundation. This road would also be built through a forested area, and next to the Union Pacific rail line, says Partlow.

Above: Another required access road for a proposed parking garage in the area of the Schmidt House would be located here, next to the Union Pacific railway. The parking lot drops off steeply to the railway and through the trees, the Old Brewery. 

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation has almost no comment on the Tumwater’s brewery planned action draft environmental impact statement or Heidgerken’s plans, says the Foundation’s executive director John Freedman.

The Foundation owns Tumwater Falls Park and the Schmidt House and related property. Heidgerken will need the Foundation’s cooperation to access a proposed residential area and parking garage through the Schmidt House’s back parking lot.

A heavily treed, steep ravine and the Union Pacific Railway is in that area of the property.  No conversations about access have taken place between the Foundation and Heidgerken’s company, said Freedman.

“We have not seen anything concrete that requires action on our part. We have no objections to any progress…we’d like to see it historically developed,” he said on Friday. 

As the Foundation expands its history program, Freedman has said that they would want to become involved in the proposed craft brewing and distilling center project in the area of the Old Brewhouse.

To comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Tumwater Brewery Planned Action, contact Chris Carlson, Permit Manager, City of Tumwater, 555 Israel Road SW, Tumwater, Washington 98501,, (360) 754-4180.

For more information about Tumwater, brewery district planning, the Old Brewery, George Heidgerken, go to and type in key words into the search button.