Vacant brewery a snag in plan

ahobbs@theolympian.comFebruary 20, 2014 

The three cities of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater are testing the wells, pipelines, pumps and storage tank at the old Olympia Brewery wellfield to see what work needs to be done to bring the wellfield back into production.

STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Tumwater hopes to transform the 300-acre area that surrounds the vacant Olympia Brewery into an economic and social hub.

However, there’s an 800,000-square-foot elephant in the room: The brewery itself, which closed in 2003. Some say the site needs a viable tenant before the city’s economic vision can become a reality.

Commercial real estate broker Troy Dana has fielded multiple inquiries for the property, which was last appraised at about $16 million. People have pitched ideas such as an indoor ski slope or marijuana growing facility, but Dana said the most viable option could come back to the site’s original function – brewing beer.

Although he would not name potential suitors, Dana said multiple beer companies have asked about the property.

“It will never be the mega-brewery that it once was, which is certainly unfortunate,” said Dana, a longtime Thurston County resident who remembers hearing the brewery’s 5 o’clock whistle from his home as a child. “The logical strategy is to try to re-engage the market and make beer there again.”

The Brewery District is bordered roughly by Tumwater Historical Park to the north, the Tumwater Valley Golf Course to the south, the cemeteries on Cleveland Avenue to the east, and I-5 to the west.

The Brewery District Plan is intended to set the tone for private development in the neighborhood. The city held a fourth open house Tuesday to show the public its grand vision for turning the district into a “town center.” Ideas include shops, parks, trails, a farmers market or even a library branch. Preliminary drawings show the potential for changing the character of Cleveland Avenue into more of a “Main Street,” for example, along with making the area more pedestrian-friendly with wider sidewalks and safer crosswalks. Another goal is to create opportunities for “third places,” or social gathering spots outside home and work. Examples include coffee shops and senior centers.

The city’s plan focuses on transportation, parking and environmental studies in order to prepare the area for development — if or when it comes. The Tumwater City Council is expected to consider the next step of action later this spring following recommendations from the planning commission.

Most of the properties within the district are privately owned. Fred Klemmer owns Heart of Wellness, a holistic healing clinic located on Clark Place near the intersection of Custer Way and Capitol Boulevard. Klemmer attended Tuesday’s open house to learn more about the plan’s potential impact on his business, which overlooks the old brewery.

“I’ve been so impressed with this process,” said Klemmer, who has owned the business for about six years. “The overall vision is good for the area.”

For three years, Stacia Ward has lived at the corner of Bates and Erie streets, about a block away from Heart of Wellness. She likes that her neighborhood is quiet, but said it could use more traffic and pedestrian safety measures like the ones sought in the Brewery District Plan. Ward and her mother, Lois, who owns the home, said they have no problem with the plan as long as neighborhood residents aren’t stuck paying for sidewalks and other improvements.

More Online

Check out documents related to the Brewery District Plan online at ci.tumwater.wa.us.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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