For decades, the Olympia Brewery’s 8 a.m. steam-whistle signaled the beginning of work for many, and the start of first period for those at Olympia High School (OHS), just a mile down the road. One of those students was 1981 graduate Michael Parsons, who today is involved in a partnership to bring brewing back to the Tumwater site.
Joining Michael in the partnership are his son-in-law John Peters (OHS ’04) and son Dylan Parsons (OHS ’09). Their collective enthusiasm for the project is reflective of their deep roots here and the community’s strong affinity for our brewing heritage.
“We wanted to create something that provides value to the city and the people who live here,” said John. John is an environmental engineer with a focus on sustainable development, so his interest was particularly piqued.
“Brewing and distilling require significant resources. I was interested in how we could reuse traditional waste streams such as heat, water, and spent grains,” he said. “Sustainably wise, we want to push traditional development boundaries with this project. We’re looking at the bigger picture, taking a holistic, systematic approach, to the creation of place, its function, and connectivity.”
The project, called The Craft District, sits on 5.5 acres, with the old brewery’s production and bottling sites both visible. Phase one will be approximately 60,000 square feet of commercial space, including production and tasting rooms for distilling, brewing and cider making. Multiple restaurants, unique craft retailers, and an outdoor amphitheater will also be included.
As part of the college’s new Craft Brewing and Distilling degree, South Puget Sound Community College will be using approximately 8,000 square feet for classrooms, labs, production, an office and a conference room. Another tenant under a letter of intent is Heritage Distilling, a highly-awarded craft distillery based in Gig Harbor. Their plans include both production and retail space for whiskeys, vodkas, gins and flavored spirits.
John said interest in the project grew organically. “We are really interested in bringing together locally owned businesses that focus on craft production,” he said. The community aspect is paramount for the group, which sees the project as something the community both needs and wants.
“We’re looking for how we can do things a little bit differently on the social side as well as the environmental side,” shared John. The developers are not only local, they have a strong appreciation for craft artisans of all types – coffee, chocolate, gelato, wines, spirits and brews. Their families jointly own a small farm in east Olympia which produces hops, lavender, wine grapes and apples.
The Craft District is located at 4200 Capitol Boulevard SE, between Capitol Boulevard and Tumwater Valley Drive. The project broke ground in August 2017 and is expected to open in winter of 2018. All but 1,500 square feet of currently proposed buildings are spoken for, though there is some additional room for phase two development. Just over 200 parking stalls will serve the site.
The project includes a lot of earthwork, so it was beneficial that the group owns Black Lake Resources whose operations include quarries, sand and gravel pits, dump sources, and related equipment. About 60,000 yards of earth was removed during the site preparation phase.
“This is an exciting project,” said John. “The location, timing of community needs, and our skill sets all lined-up for a really unique opportunity.”