Dreaming Big for Hilltop’s Vacant Spaces…

In his latest columnThe News Tribune's Matt Driscoll takes a look at development in the Hilltop - and specifically at the lack of development on one particular block of the neighborhood - the block where the vacant (did someone say haunted?) Rite Aid sits.

He begins with a little optimism about the future.

Things are happening on the Hilltop.

Of course, if you’ve lived here long enough, you’ve heard plenty of declarations regarding the area’s imminent turnaround. Hilltop has been on the verge of revitalization so long that it’s sometimes hard to take the notion seriously.

But that optimism is tempered by the all-too-visible question posed by the empty drugstore building. Rite Aid still has six years left of a 22-year lease. Despite the more than $500,000 it spends annually on that lease, however, the chain doesn't seem to have much interest in subleasing the space. So there it sits. A depressingly vacant block at the center of what plan after plan for the neighborhood has idenified as a major growth hub. 

It seems quite possible that the space could continue to be a black hole of development for the next half-dozen years... But we're always game for a little optimistic speculation - what would you like to see take over the old Rite Aid space?

And while we're at it, what about some big ideas for this lovely empty space...?

Read Driscoll's column here.

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It’s to bad the City can’t collect and package land for developers… Hilltop is yet another great example of why this might be a good tool for the city.

March 31, 2015 at 1:08 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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It might make a good night spot.  It could be called Brown’s Star Grill.

March 31, 2015 at 3:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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“Getting that Rite Aid, historically, it was a huge community effort, in terms of design and what people wanted,” Walker says. “People wanted it to be beautiful, and not the typical Rite Aid building. Rite Aid was going to be the turning point for the rest of the hill to develop.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t work out.”

First off having the City get involved in siting the building so that it faced away from the street was not a good idea.  Secondarily, I used to pass right by it before the one-way streets were changed to two way operation.  I stopped in frequently and picked up items even though I don’t live in that neighborhood.  I just avoid going downtown anymore, it is too much of a nuisance.

March 31, 2015 at 3:38 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jim C

Note another article in today’s TNT about the Key Bank branch closing. Somehow someone is going to have to convince people with money they want to be here or nothing’s ever going to change. Running the Hobo/Tourist Express up the hill is not going to do it, I don’t think.

March 31, 2015 at 4:48 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Would Bartell Drugs take a risk in Upper Tacoma/Hilltop?  That Seattle firm’s first outlet in Tacoma at Sixth and Union opened in a structure originally built to house a Rite Aid, until that firm hit temporary hard times.  Would Rite Aid be glad to let a Seattle firm, albeit a competitor, take such a risk?  As for the closure of the Hilltop branch of Key Bank, Mayor Strickland cites a statistic that 25 percent of Tacoma household’s lack internet access.  If internet banking is not an option for 25 percent of the city’s residents, is it not a civic shame regardless of the donations Key Bank makes to local charities that it makes banking harder to do for place-bound residents of Upper Tacoma/Hilltop?  Perhaps Columbia Bank might have the courage to reopen a branch in Upper Tacoma/Hilltop but without compromising the need for responsible color-blind lending policies that are needed to promote private sector-involved neighborhood revitalization.  The late Chuck Walker who ran auto parts store for years at S. 15th and MLK Way remembered getting a $500 loan for such a venture from what is now the Key Bank branch now set for closure back in 1955.  He was fresh-out of Fort Lewis but the branch manager admired his courage—and Mr. Walker always had good thoughts about the hometown leadership of Puget Sound Bank President William Philip who went onto build the strong Tacoma-based Columbia Ban.  Perhaps such a reopened branch could be inside a revitalized Rite-Aid building that could house a Bartell Drugstore.  With local headquarters and leadership in Seattle, perhaps Tacoma city leaders could appeal to Bartell to assess opportunities at S. 11th and MLK, Jr. Way, as the firm found them at Sixth and Union.

March 31, 2015 at 8:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Maybe the space could be parceled into multiple spaces.  An indoor year round farmers market where people in that area could get fresh produce would be awesome. Maybe some other kind of retail could get in there as well if the space were separated into a few pieces.

April 1, 2015 at 2:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Driscoll was a great hire—he is single-handedly accomplishing the unlikely task of making The News Tribune relevant to its unnamed community.

I like the Farmers Market idea—maybe run by Spaceworks?

April 2, 2015 at 7:58 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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June 1, 2018 at 9:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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