Downtown Density and Historic Preservation

A story in this week’s Business Examiner looks at the density of current downtown construction and wonders what the Tacoma of our future looks like.  Two primary questions are raised.  First, is Tacoma set to repeat Vancouver’s dilemma – only without the density?  Second, is historic preservation and density related? 

Vancouver’s dilemma, a downtown consisting of high rise condos and virtually no commercial space, may not sound like the Tacoma of today.  However, the ‘author’ asserts that Tacoma may be heading down a similar path. 

Unlike in Vancouver, Tacoma’s developers aren’t building densely, they’re filling in empty spaces…

Tacoma’s would be condo glut won’t be one of too many units, but one where very little else beyond condos are built due to a lack of space.

This will only be made worse if the Medical Arts building we currently call City Hall and other commercial or mixed use spaces go condo. 

The more interesting question, to me, is the linkage between density and historic preservation. 

Building dense and tall now could preserve Tacoma’s architectural history for the future.  Imagine a world where the empty lots are filled by new construction intermixed with our historic downtown warehouses, offices and apartments.  This is easy to imagine, given the current rate of development.  Part of what makes Tacoma interesting is the grit beneath its fingernails – the mix of old and new seemingly intermingled in peaceful co-existence.

Now imagine a world where the demand continues to increase.  What then?  Will newer construction make way for taller buildings or will older ‘character’ buildings be demolished to make way for the density?  My fear is that the old buildings won’t stand a chance when compared to a relatively new building next door.  The question the becomes, are historic preservation and building density more closely related than we had imagined?  Can increasing density now safeguard our city’s character for the future?

How do we, as stewards of historic buildings, feel about density?  What is a good mix of old a new, dense and not-so-dense?  What is our city’s future?  Where is our vision?

Also mentioned on the BIA Blog

Previously on Exit133

Link to the Business Examiner

The article is locked up, but can be read in print or for $1.00.  Hey, BE, open it up so I can write, and ‘we’ can read, about it!

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low bar

should have been at least a half hour longer edit and should have won for best picture. this picture has the same gravity as midnight cowboy

March 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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low bar

…if you are a hot bipolar mess:)

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