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May 16, 2014

Tumwater brewery may become ‘incubator’

TUMWATER (AP) — A new partnership wants to redevelop the historic brewhouse in Tumwater and restore the site’s original purpose: Brewing beer.

Referred to as the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center, the proposal was announced Thursday as a key step in transforming the vacant area into an economic hub that generates jobs and tourism.

The project targets the historic brewery properties north of Custer Way that are owned by Centralia-based developer George Heidgerken. Located next to the Deschutes River, the old brewhouse was part of Olympia Brewery, which closed in 2003 after nearly 100 years of making beer.

The revamped site would potentially serve as an “incubator” for small craft brewers and distillers, according to stakeholders. Another goal is to cultivate research and workforce training opportunities.

Several entities have committed to the project. Tumwater will partner with property owner Falls Development, the Port of Olympia, South Puget Sound Community College, Thurston Economic Development Council, Olympia Tumwater Foundation, Washington State University Extension, and the WSU School of Food Science.

The project is still in the early stages, and several studies are already under way. The state Community Economic Development Revitalization Board recently awarded a planning grant for $50,000 to explore public-private partnerships. In addition, a $200,000 grant from the state Department of Ecology is funding an environmental assessment and market feasibility study.

Results from the studies should be available in the next six months, said Michael Matthias, brewery redevelopment project manager with the Thurston EDC. The private partners must still secure financing, but the studies can help determine some of the costs related to infrastructure, he said.

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