Wednesday, December 17, 2014

West Olympia Neighborhood Gets A Facelift

Above: Two properties on Division Street were recently purchased by Olympia resident Alicia Elliott. The house at 110 Division was in poor condition and demolished today. The property will be the site of a future business. The property next door at 106 Division will be remodeled into another business.

By Janine Unsoeld

An area near the corner of Harrison and Division continues its transformation into a friendly, walkable neighborhood center in west Olympia.
Olympia resident Alicia Elliott bought two residential properties on busy Division Street earlier this summer and continues her bold vision to transform the area into a neighborhood center that welcomes foot traffic and locally owned businesses.

Recently, Elliott bought the property on the corner of Division and Harrison that became West Central Park, and the former DeGarmo’s Pharmacy property located next door to the park. That property is scheduled to become a café in 2015.

The properties at 106 Division and 110 Division are just down the street from the park. The house at 110 Division was in poor condition and was demolished today.
Elliott watched as Matt Aynardi of Altis Construction, LLC used an excavator to bulldoze the house. Susan Fernbach, a neighborhood resident who lives just behind the property, also watched.

“The area was coming out of its blight by the time I arrived in the neighborhood,” said Fernbach, who has lived behind the property for a year.
The 1930s era house was a rental in poor condition for many years, Elliott said, although she managed to save the new vinyl windows. All the metal and salvageable wood was taken out prior to destruction.  

“The floor, the walls…everything was spongy….I would have restored it if I could,” said Elliott.  
“It’s pretty decrepit. It has a lot of structural problems…to rehabilitate it wouldn’t have been cost effective,” agreed Chris Ruef of Altis Construction, who supervised the demolition. Ruef said he’d have the house down today and all debris removed by Monday.

Elliott said she had to get many environmental permits related to clean air, asbestos, and lead before proceeding with the bulldozing.
Elliott plans to build a two story, 2,500 square foot business on the site and restore the house next door at 106 Division, possibly into a bakery. Plans are still in the design phase but Elliott says that the businesses will look residential from the street. Fifteen parking spaces will be created in the back and a large White Oak tree and three apple trees in the back of the property will be spared.

Above: The yellow house on 106 Division Street will be remodeled into a business. West Central Park can be seen at the intersection of Harrison and Division.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Great Food, Great Company at Barb O’Neill’s Thanksgiving Dinner

By Janine Unsoeld
For 45 years, the Barb O’Neill’s Family and Friends Thanksgiving Dinner has served the community, and did so again today from noon to 5 p.m. at The United Churches in downtown Olympia. Just before 5:00 p.m., it was estimated that 1,500 meals had been served.
Volunteers with community resource organizations such as GRuB, Safeplace, the Thurston/Mason chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Quixote Village handed out potentially life-saving literature and information.
Kitchen volunteers monitored the food line often and quickly exchanged empty bowls, pans and platters with full ones. Everyone had their plates full of hot turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, deviled eggs, and stuffing. Some came back more than once.
One volunteer who served food was Gracie Anderson, 15, a student at Olympia High School. She’s been serving meals at the Thanksgiving gathering for five years, and sees a future for herself in social work. She is involved in several clubs at school, including the National Honor Society and debate. She says she loves to talk about local issues.
With her mom and little sister serving desserts nearby, Anderson served garlic bread and extra butter and I served celery sticks and pickles. Although I cheerfully offered both options equally, the pickles were popular and we ran out them by mid-afternoon.
The articulate teenager exuded enthusiasm and told me a few stories. I asked why she keeps coming back to help serve.
“It’s a humbling experience to be able to help people who can’t always help themselves,” she said.
She says she breathes a sigh of relief when she sees the same people back year after year because at least she knows they are O.K. She wonders if the children she sees are homeless.
Anderson says the nice thing about the Thanksgiving Dinner is that anyone can come, so there’s no stigma to coming and being served a good meal. She says that although she feels comfortable around people in need, it also helps for her to visualize that within everyone, there’s a child.
“Sometimes it helps to see the child instead of the adult….and everyone has a story….One year, about two years ago, I got into a heart-to-heart conversation with a woman who said she had cancer and couldn’t afford treatment. I could tell she was weak. I’ve never seen her again…She was amazing,” said Anderson, her voice trailing off in thought.
Anderson said she read a book last year, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction,” by Dr. Gabor Mate, and recommended it to anyone who wants to learn more about people and their addictions. She said her mom read it too.
“It was life changing, and gave me a new perspective on what I do here,” she said.
Asked if she’s seen a shift in demographics of those who come to be served, she said she thinks she sees more older children and not as many little kids. “But maybe it’s because I’m more involved and mature and see things with a new perspective.”
Gracie Anderson has also served food for the Barb O’Neill’s Family and Friends gathering at Christmas time and Easter.
“I love Christmas – I helped kids pick out free presents for their parents, and I made about 450 friendship bracelets and gave them all out,” she said. Anderson’s little sister came over and pulled a few of the friendship bracelets out of her pocket. Anderson tied one on my wrist.
“It’s fun when people come back and I see them still wearing their bracelet,” she said.
We were relieved of our posts about 4:00 p.m., and a fresh group of volunteers took over our duties, while a steady stream of visitors still came in to receive food.
Everyone was being served. Some visitors had been there for hours to enjoy the food, company, the live music, coffee, pop, and water, and a warm place to hang out. I enjoyed a meal and several meaningful conversations.
One guy with a great sense of humor told me his life story but warned me that he probably won’t remember our conversation if we see each other again due to a brain injury. A former long haul truck driver, he suffered a brain hemorrhage 13 years ago while at his truck stop on Mottman Road. His license was taken away and he has not worked since.
“After a while, I told my wife I was bored. She said I wasn’t allowed to say I was bored. So I go to the doctor and he tells me I’m depressed! Well, let me tell you, I’m bored with being depressed!” he laughed. He is very proud of his 27 year old daughter who is a dancer.
Saying goodbye, having made a few new friends, Rodney O’Neill greeted people coming and going at the door. I got a big hug. Pointing Gracie out to him, I told him how wonderful she is.
“That’s what inspires me so much, is seeing the same faces every year,” he said with a smile.
Serving celery sounds simple, but it was harder than it looks, and behind that is a lot of hard work. O’Neill and a solid team of volunteers, many of them teenagers, including a young man named Ian, had been there preparing and cooking food since 8:00 a.m.
About 4:15 p.m., Rich Smith, kitchen manager, gave O’Neill a quick update on the food situation. One more uncooked turkey remained. It was decided to not cook it. Over 1500 meals had been served today.

“That’s 25 dozen deviled eggs, 140 pounds of mashed potatoes – all hand peeled and hand mashed – 200 pounds of stuffing, and 30 smoked turkeys. Safeway donates all the desserts and breads,” Smith laughed, and headed back into the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stop Work Order at Old Brewhouse Draws Comments, Reactions

Above: The window may be closing on resurrecting the Old Brewhouse. Photo taken of the ground floor of the Old Brewhouse Tower on October 18.

By Janine Unsoeld

It was the first time he had been on site for perhaps a year when Paul Knight gave a tour of the Old Brewhouse in Tumwater for a group of citizens on October 18.
“I saw more deterioration of mortar on the bricks and rust on the beams. The window is closing on resurrecting that place,” says Knight.

Citizen complaints about significant, unpermitted road grading, water diversion and construction activity led to the City of Tumwater's stop work order at the Old Brewhouse on October 28.
Knight met Little Hollywood today at the Mason Jar, an eatery popular with brewery employees until the Olympia Brewery Company blew its whistle for the last time in 2003. 
Starting out as an hourly production employee in 1961, Knight went through a series of promotions to eventually enjoy a long career as the Brewmaster at the modern” brewery, the Olympia Brewing Company, from 1974 to 1997.

Above: Retired Brewmaster Paul Knight leads a tour of the Old Brewhouse on October 18, 2014.

Now 80 years old and more active than ever, Knight spends his time volunteering for the Old Brewhouse Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the Olympia Flight Museum, restoring old cars, and woodworking.

“It’s a grand old building,” he said as he helped provide captions for pictures taken of the Old Brewhouse on the October 18 tour.
The importance of the structure was recognized in 1978 when the property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2004, it was listed as one of "Washington State's Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties" by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Stop Work Order Comments, Reactions

Above: Unpermitted construction with old and new pipes at the base of the hillside near the Old Brewhouse on October 8, 2014.
The current Old Brewhouse owner, George Heidgerken, Falls Development LLC, has violated environmental regulations in the past.

According to a 1993 Seattle Times article, a U.S. District Court, Tacoma sentenced Heidgerken to five months' imprisonment and ordered him to pay a $4,000 fine for illegally storing 260 drums of hazardous wastes. Heidgerken was also ordered to serve a four-month term of home detention when he completed his jail term.
In June of that year, he pleaded guilty to storing the drums in Shelton without a permit in violation of federal law. The drums contained lacquers and stain used in furniture finishing.
In another case, Heidgerken was fined $10,000 by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for his failure to comply with a Forest Practices Act reforestation order in Grays Harbor County. That case dragged on throughout the 1990s and was settled in early 2000, when Heidgerken lost an appeal of the fine imposed by DNR in 1994. More information about that case is available at:

Local reaction to the stop work order has been steady since the news was first reported by Little Hollywood on October 30.

Michael Chun of Associated Environmental Group, a local engineering firm working with Heidgerken, was shocked when he saw recent pictures of the site on the Little Hollywood blog.
Chun said that his firm’s involvement with the project is focused on the hazardous material cleanup of metals contamination due to the painting of barrels with leaded paint. A former paint shop was located on the site, near the hillside that contains several artesian springs.

“Barrels were scattered all over the place,” he said. As part of a voluntary cleanup agreement with the state Department of Ecology, Heidgerken hired Chun’s firm to characterize the contamination and remove the top level of soil.

“Now we need to deal with the groundwater….We’re looking for dissolved metals. At this point, we don’t know if it’s contaminated. We need to set three resource protection wells,” explained Chun. Chun said he had wanted to place the wells this past summer, but Heidgerken delayed for unknown reasons.

“The sooner we get this started, the better. I am waiting for grading to get a drill rig down there….it’s a challenging site. I’d like to get started by the end of the year.” Chun said that Ecology requires that the water be sampled four consecutive quarters for a year.

Chun, who has led several successful environmental restoration efforts in downtown Olympia, said he hadn’t been at the Old Brewhouse property in quite a while. Chun reacted upon seeing the most recent Little Hollywood article about the old brewery. 

“Holy Cow!” Chun exclaimed when he saw the pictures. “ ….I can tell you right now I won’t be able to get a drill rig down there….George clearly went above and beyond what we needed,” said Chun. With a new perspective on the situation, Chun said he would visit the site in person as soon as possible.

Asked to comment on the stop work order, City of Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet wrote a response to Little Hollywood last week. He also sent his statement to the Thurston County commissioners, the Port of Olympia commissioners, and City of Olympia and Tumwater councilmembers.

“I’ve read your blog and appreciate your interest in the environment and this iconic site. I assure you that it is my desire to have any redevelopment of this site protect the historic assets while respecting the location from an environmental and cultural perspective. We continue to work with a number of experts to try and find that balance,” wrote Kmet.

“Tumwater is committed to compliance with all the applicable environmental regulations. Mr. Heidgerken needs to comply with those regulations. We will work with the applicable resource agencies and Mr. Heidgerken to address the situation with the wetlands. Similarly, his involvement in the study of the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center doesn’t waive his requirements for environmental compliance. The Center, for that matter, is not limited to the historic site and could be located in an existing building up on the hill. Our studies will be assessing the degree to which this site can be used for the Center or other viable activities.
“As we know from the redevelopment of numerous historic properties throughout the State and the Country, finding a viable reuse is critical to generating funds to preserve them. I hope you and your readers will work with us to help make that happen before we lose this iconic landmark. I am looking forward to the next step in this process, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, for an opportunity to identify and evaluate the issues related to redevelopment of this property in more detail,” said Kmet.
Rob Kirkwood, co-founder of the Old Brewhouse Foundation (OBF), a non-profit organized in 2008, also responded to the news:
“We can all agree that the Old Brewhouse site is a special place. The Old Brewhouse Foundation (OBF) recognizes that the Old Brewhouse site is where people have gathered for thousands of years to rest, celebrate, work and trade.  In addition, the site is geologically unique and also attracts a huge variety of wildlife.  The OBF mission is to gather all the stakeholders in the area and help create a facility that is sensitive to the site’s previous, current and future inhabitants. The site has many challenges and many interested parties that all have their own idea as to what the site’s future should look like. Your story highlights some of the challenges that will need to be addressed and recognizing all people’s interest will be an important part of the process….” said Kirkwood. Kirkwood also said that he assumed all the proper permits were in place for the work being done on site.

Kirkwood, along with Tumwater City Councilmember Tom Oliva, toured the Old Brewhouse site on October 18 with several citizens. Kirkwood, along with Oliva founded the organization in 2008 to “motivate the community in developing the Old Brewhouse for a public purpose.”

The Old Brewhouse Foundation has chosen not to take a formal position on Heidgerken's plans nor did the organization comment on the city's determination of significance and scope of the environmental impact statement for the area.

Above: Looking through a cavity from the third floor to the second floor of the Old Brewhouse Tower on October 18, 2014. The cavity is where a mash tub once operated and hung down towards the second floor. The Deschutes River can be seen out the window frame.

Market Study Results
According to Tumwater city council meeting minutes for October 14, a market study on the brewery properties north of Custer Way was recently completed to explore potential types of uses and marketability of the site.

Richard Gollis and Adam Seidman of The Concord Group summarized the market study results for the council. The team identified the potential for a wide array of land uses at the site, taking advantage of existing structures as well as building new ones.
The group says there is approximately 400,000 to 500,000 square feet of supportable development over a 10-year period. A phased in, mixed use approach could be developed along Custer Way as an early catalyst, as well as working through the concept of the craft brewery and distilling center.

The group said that of the three proposed land use alternatives identified by the city, the third alternative, the full mixed use redevelopment alternative, would maximize the area's potential. A mixed use project off Custer Way, including the Cellars Building at 240 Custer Way, and the historic brewhouse, could serve to bring people to the area.

The analysis considered different land uses at the site, such as an apartment building, condominiums, hotel, retail, office, and special destination uses, such as the craft brewery and distilling center.

Limiting development to renovation of the historic structure was not recommended because of the amount of infrastructure development required for the site.

The consultants said that the reason people would come to the area is to enjoy retail and hospitality, and would want to live here because it is near historic structures and the Deschutes River. Educational institutions would be an important component of the property’s future success.

City Administrator John Doan commented on the importance of the craft brewery and distilling center or another special destination use to help accelerate the development timeline.

Above: The five story RST Cellars building at 240 Custer Way in Tumwater is not historic. It is part of the “modern” brewery complex and built in three sections in 1966, 1967 and 1970. New cellars were built as needed to store beer. The building is currently owned by George Heidgerken, Falls Development LLC.
In previous conversations, Heidgerken has said he anticipated starting his redevelopment work on the RST Cellars building on Custer Way.
For more information about the Old Brewhouse Foundation, go to 
For past stories about the Old Brewhouse, go to and use the search engine to type in key words.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tumwater Issues Stop Work Order on Development at Old Brewhouse

Above: Construction equipment and maintenance debris seen around the Old Brewhouse building in Tumwater on October 8 and October 18 indicated a dramatic difference in recent road construction and water diversion efforts. Multiple areas with black tubing were seen in place, diverting water which was streaming from a nearby hillside. The hillside contains at least nine artesian springs.

By Janine Unsoeld

The City of Tumwater has issued a stop work order to Old Brewhouse developer George Heidgerken and Falls Development, LLC.
In a voicemail yesterday, Chris Carlson, permit manager for the City of Tumwater, said, “We have issued a stop work order to the property owner down there, and he’s basically graded without a permit, and he has also filled a portion of a Category 3 wetland, a slope wetland, on the south side of the access road…the site is under stop work.

“We have contacted Alex Callender, over at the shoreline section of the Department of Ecology, letting him know where we’re at with this. The lead official right now is in the process of actually issuing the notice of violation….”
Carlson also said that the city will be setting up a meeting with both Ecology and the Army Corps of Engineers in the next couple of days to discuss what each agency’s course of action will be.

“We’re working on a solution to try and get the project in compliance,” he said.

Above: Excavation, road grading, and drain pipes as seen on the south side of the Old Brewhouse building on October 18, 2014.

Stop Work Order Details

City of Tumwater building official John Darnell visited the site this week after receiving a complaint that grading and filling work was being conducted on the south side of the building. Darnell confirmed that this work was being done without permits required under several Tumwater city codes including grading, wetland protection standards, and fish and wildlife habitat protection.

The stop work order, dated October 28, also requires that a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) be in place.

“With the exception of immediate erosion control measures, the Stop Work Order will remain in place until all plans, mitigations and approvals have been completed....You are required to submit a SWPPP plan designed and stamped by a licensed professional engineer to mitigate the potential erosion and stabilize the disturbed area....You also need to prepare a report/plan prepared by a licensed wetland biologist and civil engineer showing how the wetland and habitat area will be mitigated. Once we have the report and plan we will schedule a meeting with you and the agencies involved to determine if the mitigation is acceptable....” said Darnell. 

Citizen Complaints

The City of Tumwater is in the process of preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed redevelopment of an area that includes the Old Brewhouse.
The city determined that this redevelopment is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment. Three land use scenarios for the site was identified by the city and the public comment for these scenarios was due to Tim Smith on October 20.
As a private citizen, this reporter requested a stop work order at the Old Brewhouse site after she witnessed, on two occasions, extensive construction being done at the site.

She was taken on two tours of the property, one led by Tim Smith, planning manager at the City of Tumwater on October 8, and one led by the Old Brewhouse Foundation on October 18. On both tours, it was apparent that significant road construction and water diversion work was being done at the site. Other citizens were also on both tours.

The letter dated October 20 by Janine Unsoeld was written and submitted in a timely manner as a public comment and says, in part:
“I request that the public comment deadline for TUM-14-0741 be extended to allow the public more time to research the three land use alternatives. I request a stop-work order on all activities on the property until these roles, and all environmental considerations under WAC 197-11-444 are better understood by all concerned parties.”

City of Tumwater Response

On October 22, Smith sent Unsoeld an email, saying, in part:
“City staff will continue to work with the landowner regarding ongoing maintenance work onsite. Any site work that requires a permit will be enforced by staff.”

On October 23, Little Hollywood emailed several staff members in charge of wetland and shoreline permits at the state Department of Ecology, including Callender, and the state department of Fish and Wildlife expressing concerns.
Little Hollywood also sent them a particularly disturbing picture and described the scene:

“…Water is flowing directly from the hillside (I've been told there are nine artesian springs there) into the moat, and going under the building and presumably, going somewhere, most likely the nearby wetlands and into the Deschutes River. The old metal pipes are being dug up at the base of the hillside, which I saw in place, in disarray. The big black tubes are replacements, it appears. There are new trenches and a road being built.
“….Can you clarify for me the role of when Ecology and Fish and Wildlife may get involved, and wetland and shoreline issues will be monitored with regard to this property? I am concerned about possible conflicts of interest at the City of Tumwater….”

Above: Another view of the excavation, road grading, and drain pipes as seen on the south side of the Old Brewhouse building on October 18, 2014.
Falls Development Response to Stop Work Order
Jon  Potter, Old Brewhouse project manager for Falls Development, LLC, was reached late this afternoon by telephone and asked about the stop work order.
“It shouldn’t have happened…it wasn’t intentional…it was ignorance. We dropped the ball on two things: the wetland, and not keeping people apprised of what was going on….” said Potter.
According to Potter, a paint shop used to exist next to the old keg house between the existing road and the building. When Heidgerken bought the property, he could have gone after Miller Brewing Company to clean it up, but since they were in negotiations with Miller to lift the brewing deed restriction, Heidgerken decided to pick his battles and do the environmental clean-up himself.
The deed restriction was lifted, and under a voluntary cleanup agreement with the state Department of Ecology, Falls Development excavated the area and handled dumpage fees for the contaminated soil. Potter said this cost developer George Heidgerken about $70,000. The excavation created a large hole where groundwater monitoring wells are expected to be placed. Since the hole was so big, it was necessary to bring in rock so that the monitoring wells could be placed.
“….As part of that effort, drainage pipes were draining into that hole. George went back in and removed pipes on the other side….What should have happened, and didn’t happen on our part, is say, ‘Listen, this backfilling is bigger than anticipated.’ He didn’t go through the proper channels to remove the pipes….I’m angry with, but sympathetic with George that he tried to take the pipes out, but not in the right way. He felt like he was doing the right thing….”
Potter said AEG Engineering in Olympia is their consultant who developed their remediation plan and said they didn’t need a grading permit.
“It’s got to be done the right way and I am furious to put city staff in the position they are in….This is truly a public-private partnership and for us to screw up like that was not good. I can’t say it any other way….” said Potter.
Potter said that their staff and the city’s staff will look at the issue to come up with a proposal regarding the wetland encroachment, which will determine the project’s future schedule.
“When it’s all said and done, it’ll be spectacular….” said Potter.
Above: Old Brewhouse Tower reflected in a puddle on October 18, 2014.
For more information, go to Little Hollywood at, and see articles dated October 12, “Tumwater Seeks Public Comment on Old Brewery Proposed Development,” and October 16,“Developer Heidgerken Shares Old Brewery Vision.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Interfaith Emergency Shelter Set To Open November 1

Above: Meg Martin works in the new office of the Interfaith Emergency Overnight Shelter this past weekend. New beds are stacked in the foreground.

By Janine Unsoeld

The Interfaith Works Emergency Shelter is set to open November 1 at First Christian Church in downtown Olympia with space and beds for 30 men and women.

City of Olympia Hearing Examiner Mark Scheibmeir presided at a public hearing held Monday night to decide on a conditional use permit proposal to use the church’s basement to expand the shelter capacity from 30 beds to 42 beds.
The basement had previously been used by the Family Support Center, which recently moved to the Smith Building, located on Olympia’s eastside. The current permit expires in January of 2015. The church had also been the location for Camp Quixote, the temporary homeless camp, that has since moved to Quixote Village.
City planner Steve Friddle represented the city and provided the staff report recommending that the shelter be permitted for 42 beds. Hearing Examiner Scheibmeir stated at the outset that he did a site visit, walked through the property and neighborhood, and disagreed with the city's interpretation of the code.
Friddle admitted that the Olympia municipal code regarding group homes, residential and commercial standards and uses was confusing, and that the city recommended the 42 bed shelter based on state fire and building codes.
Scheibmeir said that it's not his job to defend the city's land use policies, but he calculated the capacity of the space to allow 37 beds, and he did not make that calculation lightly, knowing its draconian ramifications.”
The hearing examiner took Danny Kadden, executive director of Interfaith Works, and Meg Martin, Interfaith Shelter Program Manager, to task for not documenting the specifics of how the facility would be used. Both provided new information and details about the facility that had not previously been provided to the hearing examiner.
I don't care about rules about pets, or where people store their belongings...but the hours of operation and the way a facility is used, and a number of other aspects of the plan are essential...Those are critical for me to know....What I would like is for the applicant to examine their plan relevant to the basic issues...and develop a clear understanding...of what will be expected.”
Several people offered testimony in support and against the permit.
Brenda Hatcher of First Christian Church spoke in support of the group's permit, saying it was a unanimous decision by the congregation to host the shelter, saying it feels strongly that human beings deserve a place to be. Speaking in support of Interfaith Works, she said the organization has a good record of doing what they promise.
They've been partners with us for years and have an ongoing reputation for being compassionate...and provide for people,” she said.
Don Sloma, Thurston County's director of public health services, also spoke in support of the shelter's application, as did Theresa Slusher, the county's homeless services coordinator. 
In 2013, the shelter received a conditional award of $400,000 by a multi-jurisdictional housing consortium based on Interfaith Works’ ability to work with the City of Olympia and local advocates to identify an acceptable site for the project and obtain required permits.
Theresa Sparber, a 63 year old who is homeless, also spoke in support of the shelter. She said she has a history of strokes, COPD, and heart attacks, and that maneuvering at night on slick streets has caused her to have multiple falls.
I can't wait for the shelter to open, to rejuvenate my body, to get rest. Believe me, by 5 o'clock, we're ready to hit the sack. A friend of mine is 73 and she's in different bushes. There's so many of us displaced women who are lost out there and it's a place we never thought we'd be. (The shelter) is a great effort on everyone's part - it gives us hope,” said Sparber. 
Jim Haley, President and CEO of Thurston First Bank spoke against the permit. He said the bank relocated to 600 Franklin Street, one block away from the proposed shelter as part of an effort to revitalize downtown. Citing multiple concerns, Haley said he didn't see anything about the shelter that benefits the neighborhood. He said he wasn't against the homeless, but it's business that creates tax revenue so we can better help the homeless.”

The hearing lasted about two hours, and Scheibmeir held the record open until the end of the week for additional information to be submitted by the applicants and others who wish to submit materials. He said he hoped to make a decision within 10 days from the following Monday.
I envision approving this (permit) but I'm not sure in what fashion....Two groups deserve certainty: the population who would benefit from its use, and those affected, such as businesses and residents...neither trumps the other, both deserve to be recognized....” said Scheibmeir.
Shelter Gets Ready To Open
The task of locating a shelter formerly known as The People’s House has proved difficult in terms of finding a suitable location. 
Staff and volunteers were working hard this past weekend to get the space at First Christian Church ready.

Meg Martin, Interfaith Works Emergency Shelter program director, took time to explain the goals for the space.
Changing the emphasis to housing a pre-screened clientele will aim to the serve the most vulnerable adult homeless individuals over the age of 24 who are not generally violent offenders,” said Martin. 
Although a daytime warming and activity shelter is badly needed in the community, this shelter will not serve that purpose.

Using a lengthy questionnaire, street outreach workers assessed the needs and vulnerability of over 135 people in the last month. To fill the shelter beds, staff will attempt to locate 30 of those people who received the highest score in terms of vulnerability, and prioritize the beds for those who need it most.
“With the (previous) first-come, first-served model, we would have filled up immediately. Women and those with severe mental illness wouldn’t have gotten in,” she said about the new intake strategy.

Martin explained that each person will have a bed designated for them unless they miss three consecutive evenings without telling staff a reason for their absence. Lockers will be available for their belongings, and pets are allowed in kennels next to their person. Martin says this has been allowed in the past with no problems.
“We never want to have an empty bed...This effort has a much broader vision for placing people in permanent supportive housing. If we can expand, we’ll save a huge amount of community resources,” Martin said. Members of the homeless population tend to have more contact with police, and have a higher use of emergency room services than the general population.

Check in time at the shelter starts at 5:00 p.m. for women, and 7:00 p.m. for men. Everyone needs to be checked in by 9:00 p.m. and leave in the morning by 7 a.m. Guests will need to sign a personal conduct agreement and “good neighbor” policy form. If a guest’s behavior prevents their fulfilling the shelter agreements, they will be directed by staff to leave.
According to the proposal submitted to the city in September, the shelter will not house Level 2 and 3 sex offenders. While staff will not automatically conduct criminal background checks, staff reserve the right to do so at any time on any guest staying at the shelter. The shelter will serve all genders and couples. The space is already sub-divided in a way that allows separate sleeping areas and bathroom access.

Two professional, trained staff will be on site at all times. Shelter staff will be supported by three or four trained volunteers during a portion of the evening hours.
In addition, SideWalk, a homeless advocacy program, will work with guests on rapid-rehousing advocacy, and Behavioral Health Resources staff will be available for mental health support.

Full meals will not be provided, as those services are available at the Union Gospel Mission and Salvation Army.
“We’re open to more partnerships – some are in the works, and some we’re still figuring out,” said Martin, who also said that more volunteers are needed. 

It was that lack of clarity that concerned city Hearing Examiner Scheibmeir at Monday night's hearing.

Shelter Capacity Projections and Community Needs

Currently, the proposed 42 shelter beds at First Christian Church will be split - 22 for men and 20 for women. In addition, Sacred Heart Church in Lacey and St. Michael’s Church on Olympia’s eastside will operate a 12 bed shelter for men, as they have in previous years. This year, they will shelter the next 12 men on the Interfaith shelter’s screened list.

In her testimony, Theresa Slusher calculated a net gain of 10 beds for both men and women combined but it is also worth noting that the women are taking a net loss.

The shelter beds for women in the community are limited to Salvation Army and the Interfaith Shelter.

Bread and Roses, a non-profit inspired by the Catholic Worker movement and dedicated to serving the homeless, recently announced that they will no longer shelter homeless women.
For more information about the Interfaith Works Emergency Shelter, contact Meg Martin at or

For more information about Interfaith Works, go to
Above: Fresh beds at First Christian Church wait to be placed in rooms for men and women.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Developer Heidgerken Shares Old Brewery Vision

Above: For the first time, Old Brewery owner George Heidgerken meets Peter G. Schmidt Jr., 92, today after Heidgerken’s presentation. Schmidt was born in the Schmidt House and is the grandson of Leopold F. Schmidt, who built the Old Brewery in 1895.

“I’d like to see you succeed, but it’s going to be rugged,” Schmidt told Heidgerken.  Schmidt shared stories about growing up near the brewery.

“When Olympia beer first hit Seattle, my god, they just couldn’t ship it fast enough….Every year, production doubled in size….” said Schmidt.

By Janine Unsoeld

It was a full house at the historic Schmidt House today in Tumwater as community members came to hear George Heidgerken speak about his vision for redeveloping the Old Brewery property. His Falls Development LLC project manager, Jon Potter, joined him. A slideshow chronicled the Old Brewery’s history from 1906 to the present.
Heidgerken joked that while doing research for the purchase years ago, he found out why no one bought it, saying it would easily cost half a billion dollars to renovate. The more he found out about its legacy, however, the more intrigued he became with the possibilities. Heidgerken owns about 35 acres of the area on both sides of the Deschutes River, including 11 acres of water.

“It’s a real treasure….To restore the buildings, we have the original plans and photos to be authentic….From an economic standpoint, it’s something of a leap of faith…the road, access, utilities, everything’s different (now).”
Admitting that nothing at the site meets current codes, Heidgerken said that despite the challenges, it’s a remarkable opportunity. The hillside, he says, hasn’t been maintained in decades and said a parking garage would provide needed parking and stabilization. Groundwater monitoring wells will be installed soon.

“This is a big deal for Tumwater and the county…it’s a unique facility…it’s time that somebody does this stuff.”
The City of Tumwater has determined that redevelopment of the property will have an adverse impact on the environment and is seeking public comment on the scope of an environmental impact statement for the site.

The deadline is Monday, October 20, by 5:00 p.m. Comments on the three land use alternatives identified for the site may be directed to: Tim Smith, AICP, City of Tumwater Planning Manager, 555 Israel Road SW, Tumwater, WA 98501; or (360) 754-4212.
Heidgerken says he doesn’t know where the process will end up, but there is interest in the property from restaurants, educational institutions and hoteliers. He says the site has the potential of being a nationally known destination, like Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, and can serve as a catalyst for other development.

Above: The Old Brewery as seen on October 8, 2014 during a tour of the Tumwater property near the Deschutes River.

Frequent murmurs of approval were heard while Heidgerken gave his presentation, and someone in the audience remarked, “It's about time.”
Heidgerken says he has spent $1 million cleaning up the property and $3 million in remodeling efforts. He cited the project’s possible benefits such as future public access to trails and the water, including the outer edge of South Capitol Lake, a craft brewing and distilling center with interest from local educational institutions, dorms for students and residential apartments or condominiums for longer term residents, space for art and antique shows, concerts in the park, and more.
Asked about the timeline of the project, Heidgerken said that the permit process dictates the pace. “It may look like we’re not doing anything on the outside, but on the inside, we’re busy….” He stressed his commitment to the project, and mentioned similar projects he is involved with are thriving.

 “I own three sites on water, all historical, and this is in the category of ‘the right thing’…. This is a high priority – I’m well-funded to do it.”
Potter said that Heidgerken owns the property outright and is under no interest rate pressure to rush things. Heidgerken said he and Potter have a 10 – 15 year relationship of working together and want to do it the right way. Both welcomed public input into the visioning process.

He said his Oregon City, all-waterfront project, the site of the former Blue Heron Paper Company, with 25-30 acres at the end of the Oregon Trail, has attracted national attention.
“For 152 years, there’s been no public access to the (Willamette) Falls…they jumped on it….” he said.

Heidgerken also mentioned success with his ownership of a 70 acre, water strategic piece of the Chambers Bay golf course near Tacoma.
Above: A drawing by Falls Development LLC depicts a remodel of the building at 240 Custer Way, also known as the RST Cellars Building, flanked by housing that could either be dorms for students or apartments, depending on market interest and economic considerations.

Some members of the public stuck around to look at drawings of the proposed redevelopment up close.

Rob Kirkwood, a founding member of the Old Brewhouse Foundation attended the presentation, and said he didn’t know about Tumwater’s citizen comment deadline of October 20 until someone referred him to the Little Hollywood article published on Sunday, October 12.
“I knew a deadline was coming up but I didn’t know when until I was referred to your article….We need more time to comment….it’s a regional asset, a regional responsibility. We need to ensure public access. It could be a county museum, like a Museum of South Sound History, Industry and Art,” said Kirkwood.

The Old Brewhouse Foundation is having its annual meeting on Saturday, October 18, at Timberland Tumwater Library, 7023 New Market Street. The meeting is open to the public and new Foundation members are always welcome, said Kirkwood. A tour of the Old Brewery for Foundation members starts at 3:30 p.m.
Longtime Tumwater resident Nancy Partlow was already aware of the October 20 public comment deadline and will be submitting formal comments to the city.

 “I’ve done some research about the 625 or 1,000 stall parking garage proposals in Alternatives 2 and 3. Just for comparison, the Tumwater Walmart has 730 parking stalls,” says Partlow.   
“The historic brewhouse site is the last place in Tumwater that a hotel and parking garage should be built. The Deschutes Estuary below the lower falls is Tumwater's most important natural area. Its biological diversity is unmatched within the city. 

“Many environmentally destructive things have been done to the Deschutes River and floodplain over the last 100-plus years, starting with the old brewhouse complex, which would never be allowed to be built where it is today. Permitting high-intensity commercial redevelopment of the site, accessible by car from either an on-site parking garage or down the narrow road that runs adjacent to the fence line of Tumwater Falls Park, is a bad idea,” says Partlow.
Audience member Pat Rasmussen stayed after the presentation to speak with Heidgerken about the Native American history of the area. Rasmussen has extensively researched the presence of the Steh-chass Indians and has compiled a sourced paper about the Nisqually tribe. Heidgerken listened, and welcomed her input.

Asked for her thoughts about the redevelopment proposal, Rasmussen said, “The old brewery and Tumwater Historical Park are located on an ancient permanent village site inhabited for thousands of years by the Steh-chass Indians. This site is far too sensitive for the scale of development proposed. The steep slopes behind the brewery are only held in place by the trees….Removing them for development could cause a landslide. The narrow road into the brewery has a steep drop-off to the river below. Any work on that road could cause a landslide directly into the Deschutes River,” said Rasmussen.

Above: A Falls Development LLC conceptual drawing for the Old Brewery area features housing along the railroad, a two lane road access, a parking garage, boardwalk, and more.

In a telephone interview late last week with John Doan, City of Tumwater’s executive administrator, Doan described to Little Hollywood the challenges of the Brewery District and redevelopment plans:

“….There’s community frustration and it’s not getting any easier with time. … People were proud about the brewery – it was an attraction. In the 60’s and 70s, about 900 people worked for the (new) brewery, and most lived no more than a quarter of a mile or half a mile away. Many walked to work or took the trolley. You didn’t have to find parking for 900 people….There’s a challenge of remodeling old buildings to fit today’s world. It’s a balance, and it’s complicated in the sense that there’s a lot of moving parts….”

Asked about the scope of the letter of mutual partnership signed by various entities to create a craft brewery and distilling center, Doan said not to worry about the partnership's limitations or the location of the center – it’s about programmatic cooperation.

“It’s a run at something there’s a market demand for – it’s really a field that's very hot….In the end, everybody wants to see something happen down there.”

For more information, contact the City of Tumwater at
For past articles about the Old Brewery and Tumwater’s Brewery District plans, go to and use the search button to type in key words.

For more information about History Programs and Schmidt House tours, contact Don Trosper, Public History and Development Manager, (360) 786-8117 or or the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, (360) 943-2550 or

Above: Inside the Old Brewery tower as seen on October 8, 2014 during a tour of the Tumwater property.
Editor's Note, October 18: A caption for this story for a Falls Development LLC conceptual drawing misidentified the proposed building depicted. It was identified as the brewery tower. It is the 240 Custer Way building, also known as the RST Cellars building. The error has been corrected.