Bridge, parking among new owner's visions for Tumwater brewhouse site

Staff writerFebruary 15, 2011 

— TUMWATER - George Heidgerken, the Centralia developer who purchased the historic brick brewhouse below Tumwater Falls last year, is considering adding parking at the site, as well as a bridge over the Deschutes River that would connect the brewhouse land with Tumwater Historical Park.

Heidgerken discussed progress on the property, as well as his ideas for it, Tuesday at a Tumwater Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. It was his second visit to the Chamber since acquiring the brewhouse property in August with business partner Patrick Rhodes. They paid $1.4 million in cash for the brewhouse, 32 acres of property and two parking lots. Heidgerken also owns the 150,000-square-foot warehouse at 240 Custer Way S.W. Both the brick brewhouse and the warehouse were part of the former Olympia brewery.

Heidgerken also told the lunchtime audience of about 60 that parking is a key feature for the successful redevelopment of the site.

“Parking is a big issue for us, and it may limit our ability to do what we would like to do,” he said. “A parking structure is really crucial to this.”

Before the comments on parking, Heidgerken’s architect Jim Brown explained the cleanup work that has been done at the site and shared more ideas for the property.

Those ideas include making the entryway for the site the intersection of Custer Way and Schmidt Place and widening to two lanes with a sidewalk the road that leads down to the brewhouse.

They also envision 400 parking spaces around the brewhouse in addition to a 600- to 800-vehicle parking garage on the site.

The warehouse at 240 Custer Way might become a hotel or apartment, Brown added, and one of the longer-term goals is to possibly build a bridge across the Deschutes River, connecting the brewhouse with Tumwater Historical Park. Still to be decided is whether the bridge would be for pedestrians or vehicles, Brown said.

It isn’t clear how Heidgerken and his representatives plan to fulfill their vision. One step that needs to be completed is a city-required historical-structures report, a kind of guide for the city about how Heidgerken plans to proceed with the buildings on the site, Tumwater permit manager Chris Carlson said.

Brown emphasized during the meeting – at Heidgerken’s urging – that they still want to “engage multiple funding opportunities” to make the redevelopment project work.

“It’s going to take a lot (of money) to put this back together,” Brown said.

Heidgerken told the audience that he does not want to turn the brewhouse into a shopping mall.

“We want something more unique than that,” he said, comparing the brewhouse development to San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, possibly filled with coffee roasters and breweries. Still, if the parking requirements don’t come through, the end product could be much different.

“If we have problems with the site, we’ll all be picking blackberries in three years – but it shouldn’t end up like that,” Heidgerken said.

Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet, who attended the meeting, acknowledged that the redevelopment project will involve huge challenges and lots of funds, but he welcomed Heidgerken’s vision.

“Look at this stuff,” he said about the ideas for the property. “This is something we’ve been dreaming about for a long time.”

The luncheon ended with remarks by Tom Fitzsimmons, principal and chief operating officer of Lorig Associates, the Seattle-based company that will work with the City of Tumwater on its $90,000 “visioning” plan for the former Olympia brewery property.

Fitzsimmons said Lorig’s work largely will focus on the remaining brewery property south of Custer Way and will involve producing market studies for the property and determining what it will take to invest in the property, as well as what developers can expect for their return on investment.

“Of course, all of this will be nested in the community’s vision, hopes and aspirations for what this place can be,” Fitzsimmons said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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