About 120 Tumwater residents, and some who live nearby, shared their thoughts this week about a portion of the Tumwater Brewery District, a 300-acre site in the city that includes the former Olympia brewery.
The gathering Thursday night at South Sound Manor was the first community open house about the district, one of a series of community meetings planned as the city works toward a development plan for the area. That plan is expected to be handed off to the Tumwater planning commission about a year from now, said Jason Robertson of J. Robertson & Co. of Olympia, a strategic planning and public communications firm. Robertson led Thursday night’s meeting.
Although the entire brewery district is 300 acres, those at the open house were asked to share their thoughts about two areas within the district: the Cleveland Avenue, Custer Way and Capitol Boulevard area of Tumwater, and the small-business district southwest of there, home to businesses such as Western Meats and Pints Barn.
Everyone took their seat at one of 15 tables, then brainstormed at each table, coming up with their two favorite development ideas to share with the larger group.
Here are some of those ideas:
• Re-engineer traffic flow on Cleveland Avenue to give it a more plaza-like, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere with more vegetation.
• Add more green space in the “bowl,” the triangular area between Cleveland Avenue, Capitol Boulevard and Custer Way.
• Slow traffic with roundabouts.
• Value the history of the area, including the brewery history.
• Add “green corridors” to lead people down to the Deschutes River.
• Add more trees along Cleveland Avenue.
• Add a streetcar, either along Capitol Boulevard or existing rail, which could then travel to and from the Olympia Farmers Market.
Some ideas were more radical than others: One person suggested that rather than have Yelm Highway flow into Cleveland Avenue, the highway should connect with Trosper Road. In the smaller groups, there also was the suggestion of improving access to southbound Interstate 5 by accessing it more directly from Custer Way.
Some, too, shared their frustrations about the lack of activity at the former brewery, which has now sat vacant and largely untouched since June 2003.
One resident asked Tumwater Community Development Director Mike Matlock whether the city had considered using the eminent domain process to seize the property.
The city has not, Matlock said, because that process would still be too expensive for the city.
As part of the process, the city would have to pay fair market value for the property, which Matlock estimated at $12 million.
Some areas of the former brewery have seen more activity than others.
The historic, brick brewhouse below Tumwater Falls, which was purchased by developer George Heidgerken — he was at Thursday’s meeting — has been cleaned up and weatherized. Heidgerken also has pitched a plan to improve the access road leading to the old brewhouse.
Up next for the Tumwater Brewery District planning project is another community house in June, although a date has yet to be determined.