Development plan for old Olympia brewery falls flat

Development plan for old Olympia brewery falls flat
TUMWATER, Wash. (AP) - A commercial real estate company has pulled out of a $45 million deal to buy the old Olympia brewery after finding the complex too decrepit and learning that part of the property is in a flood plain, officials say.

The withdrawal of the family owned Benaroya Co. of Seattle was revealed Thursday by acting Olympia City Attorney Thomas C. Morrill and is the latest blow to efforts to redevelop what was once a landmark in this town just south of the capital city.

On June 6, Benaroya officials signed an agreement to buy the 120-acre complex, subject to bankruptcy court approval and a property inspection.

On Monday, however, according to Morrill, company representatives told lawyers for bankruptcy trustees and for Tumwater, Olympia and Lacey, that it would be impossible to pursue development because the buildings are in such poor shape and additional restrictions would be imposed because part of the property is in a flood plain.

A Benaroya representative and bankruptcy trustee Michael Hitt did not respond to telephone messages from The Olympian newspaper on Thursday, the day a bankruptcy court hearing was scheduled.

Tumwater Mayor Ralph Osgood said Benaroya may have gotten cold feet over water rights.

Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater sued to condemn the brewery's water rights but later reached an agreement with current owner All American Bottled Water Corp., a startup company registered in Nevada, to resolve the matter before the property was thrown into bankruptcy.

The brewery has the legal authority to pump more than 2.4 billion gallons of water a year, subject to state Ecology Department validation.

State law specifies that such water rights revert to the state after five successive years of nonuse. Miller Brewing Co. closed the brewery four years ago, and the company may not have exercised its full water rights for an earlier period, officials said.

All American purchased the property in March 2004. It planned a water bottling operation at the plant that once produced beer bearing the slogan, "It's the water," but company President L. Eric Whetstone ran up millions in unpaid bills and eventually abandoned the property after financing collapsed.