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Old Olympia Brewery seeks new life as mixed-use complex

Ol Olympia Brewery.jpg
Michael D. Martin (flickr)
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The historic 1906 Olympia Brewing Co.structure, along the Deschutes River, is looking for a new life.

The former Olympia Brewery, in Tumwater, Wash., may join a handful of historic structures around Puget Sound that are finding new life as shopping or entertainment complexes. 

A Centralia developer bought the old brewhouse and a nearby warehouse last year, and now he's trying to put together a plan that will attract further financing.

George Heidgerken and business partner Patrick Rhodes bought 32 acres of property for $1.4 million in cash, according to the Olympian newspaper.  Rolf Boone reports Heidgerken told a Tumwater Chamber of Commerce meeting that the existing parking lots are not enough.

“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.”

The evolving vision includes a hotel or apartments in the old warehouse. But the developers aren't sure what will go in the brewery itself, which sits above the Deschutes River. Heidgerken mentions San Francisco's Ghradelli Square as a possible model.  

He also would like a bridge across the river to a city park. 

The city of Tumwater this week hired its own consultants to create a vision for the rest of the former brewery's campus. It's using a $90,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is interested in seeing a pedestrian-friendly mix of housing and businesses that would reduce the use of cars for commuting. 

Earlier ideas for the dramatic site, visible from Interstate-5, have fallen through. The Benaroya Co. of Seattle pulled out of a re-development deal "after finding the complex too decrepit and learning that part of the property is in a flood plain," the AP reported in 2007. 

A water-bottling company bought the site in 2003, but went bankrupt within a few years.
 
Olympia beer was brewed onsite from 1896 until 2003, using the slogan, "It's the water" to sell the taste. In its final years, the brewery also made Lucky Lager, Rainier Beer, and Henry Weinhard's, as those northwest breweries closed. 

If you watch carefully in the classic movie The Graduate, you'll see Dustin Hoffman sipping on an Olympia beer. 

Keith Seinfeld has been KPLU’s Health & Science Reporter since 2001, and prior to that covered the Environment beat. He’s been a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.