Building Cleared on Hilltop for MLKHDA Project

Driving up 11th Street in the direction of MLK, you might notice something is missing. Look over toward the Monsoon Room and you’ll see … they don’t have a neighbor anymore.

A large swath of land has been cleared to make way for the MLKHDA mixed-use project that combines retail, commercial space, plus affordable and market rate housing.

The project touches on a subject that regularly comes up here at Exit133: height restrictions and density!

From the Tribune:

The organization wants to build it six stories tall, but needs the City Council to raise the maximum building height from 45 feet to 85 feet.

The Tacoma Planning Commission is considering a proposal that would raise the maximum height in some of the city’s mixed-use centers, including the MLK corridor, up to an additional 20 feet if developments included certain bonus features into their plans, such as affordable housing, public art or ground-floor retail or restaurant space. Even if that proposal passes, it would allow the project to build up to only 65 feet, 20 feet short of what the association hopes to construct.

Is it time? Are we ready for some density and height?

Link to The News Tribune

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altered chords

Isn’t Tacoma the “City of Density”?

Never mind.

I’m sure there are reasons for our insistance on stunted buildings but I do not know what they are.  Please enlighten me.

May 14, 2008 at 11:14 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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If the City will makes exceptions for condos in the Stadium district, they sure as heck better be willing to do so for mixed use space and affordable housing in the ‘hood.

May 14, 2008 at 11:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I’d love to see those height restrictions increased. This kind of change seems to be major enough that it would probably take some time to work through all the bureaucracy to make it happen, even if there isn’t any opposition.

In this particular case, where time might be an issue, couldn’t the <span class=“caps”>MLKHDA</span> request a variance on the height limit? Surely if Safeway can attempt one for a blank wall in proctor with so much opposition, a variance here would not be much more than a formality.

May 14, 2008 at 12:30 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Chris K

85 feet in my mind is still restrictive, especially if you have to incorporate structured parking for additional floor area. 

The focus should be more on minimum building heights.

Where is the leadership in this city?  65 feet a maximum height in the <span class=“caps”>MUC</span>’s?  Come on Tacoma, we can do better than this!

May 14, 2008 at 1:55 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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It is my understanding that a certain Neighborhood Council (or some of its members) are the leaders in opposing raising heights in the Upper Tacoma <span class=“caps”>MUC</span> even though most of it doesn’t fall in their council area.

May 14, 2008 at 2:15 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Shaun B


and I’ll 2nd Chris K

We need more developers like Columbia Bank and <span class=“caps”>MLKHDA</span> to bring some life back to the hill and hopefully beyond what has ever been up here.
    As a home owner in the ‘hood I can’t wait to have some quality reasons to not spend all of my leisure time downtown, (when I’m not at the Monsoon Rm or Tempest) and reasons to not buy all of my groceries in West or North Tacoma (Safeway? Ppppplease!), and even…dare I say it? have some reasons to not spend my consumerist money in South Tacoma in that gawd awful mall (Yes I’m talking about bringing “big” business to HT/DT, get over it it would be good for the little guys).

I think almost any incentive to bring developers to Hilltop is a good thing.

May 14, 2008 at 7:44 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I agree that regulations need to be liberalized pretty much everywhere in Tacoma. The intent of the Growth Management Act is to accommodate most of the population growth in the cities and not in more suburban or (formerly) rural areas. However, the city of Tacoma makes it very difficult to accomplish density, even in its mixed use areas. Since most of the city is covered by low-density residential zoning (under the guise of “protecting single-family neighborhoods”), wouldn’t it be appropriate to allow density somewhere in Tacoma?

A Seattle blog called Huge Ass City recently had a discussion about buildings that form better street walls from an urban design standpoint. Several buildings were critiqued. Those buildings that were 6-8 stories were deemed to form the best street walls. Lots of 4 and 5 story buildings were criticized. With a 65-foot height limit, 5 stories is about the max.

There will always be individuals that go to the grave fighting against any sort of change. I have no idea who they are, but there is a small group of individuals pulling strings at City Hall to prevent Tacoma from moving forward. These folks reminisce over driveby shootings every day in Hilltop, arsenic poisoning from the copper smelter, and a distinctive aroma: all of the symbols of the old Tacoma. They are not willing to accept that Tacoma has changed, and are fighting tooth and nail to prevent it from becoming a great city.

As the proponents of positive change, we need to do a better job of showing the electeds why our vision of a better Tacoma trumps that of the old guard. Hopefully, height limits soon won’t be the only development regulations being changed.

May 15, 2008 at 1:30 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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jamie from thriceallamerican

As I was heading home from work yesterday, I was sitting at the intersection of 9th/Broadway/St. Helens looking at the buildings around me…  Lots of 4-5 story buildings, plus a few significantly taller ones, like the Medical Arts Building (City Hall) and the Winthrop.  Yet it didn’t feel “big city”, it just felt comfortable; urban but not at all overwhelming.  If there are people in Hilltop that are big on limiting building heights, and I’ve definitely heard that there are, I wish they’d come down to this intersection and think about their neighborhood in this context: the potential for new residents, increased commerce, offices, etc.  <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> would be <span class=“caps”>AMAZING</span> with more buildings 4+ stories, the street would be bustling, and, of course, home values would shoot through the roof.  Of course, someone would bring up parking, but I will preemptively tell that person to <span class=“caps”>STFU</span>, because that’s just plain asinine.

May 15, 2008 at 9:12 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Having the height limits at 45’/65’ may also restrict developers from developing small/single lots into anything more than townhomes. Take for instance the Hillcrest Apartments under construction off 9th and Yakima Ave. That building is 7 stories and wouldn’t be allowed under the proposed height limits. Is that building too tall? I don’t think it is. Do you think the developer would have bought that vacant lot if he could only build 45’ or even 60’?

With the lower height limits the city is going to limit developement to townhomes or larger developments where a developer can recoup cost with more units.

Single property/parcel owners will likely be limited to doing a townhome development.

May 15, 2008 at 12:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Old Timer

So Upper Tacoma (Hilltop) Business Association took a vote/poll this morn and 50% voted in favor of a max height of 85’(w/bonus features) 20% 65’, 20% 120’, and 10% other. Once the deadline has passed for voting a recommendation is to be drafted,approved and sent to the planning commision asap. I would strongly encourage those that would like to see a new <span class=“caps”>HISTORIC</span> <span class=“caps”>HILLTOP</span> to send/email your comments to the commision also. As mentioned above it’s time for the old guard to release control and let Hilltop grow.

May 15, 2008 at 12:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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