“Gentrification” or Grittiness for the East Side of the Foss Waterway?

Shipbuilding company JM Martinac, a long-time presence on the Thea Foss Waterway, is facing foreclosure, with little hope of staying afloat.

The The News Tribune last week shared an in-depth look at the shipbuilder's financial woes. This week a TNT editorial calls the loss of Martinac a blow to Tacoma's character that would make the city "a little less 'gritty,'" and raises the question of what will happen if (when?) Martinac closes up shop for good, 

The TNT opinion piece aligns with what it says has been the Port of Tacoma position, resisting "gentrification" of the east side of the Foss. 

The best possible scenarios, short of saving Martinac, would be for another boat-related company to buy the site and set up shop or for the port to buy it and find another, less industrial use for it.

Because of its long industrial history, the site is almost certain to need some expensive environmental cleanup before it could be developed for any sort of non-industrial use. Is there another solid argument for avoiding the "gentrification" of this stretch of Tacoma's waterfront? Is Tacoma on the way to losing its grit?

Read the full TNT opinion piece here.

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Mark P Martinez

So if you mean “grittiness” as being available industrial land to bring in industry that pays good wages and benefits, then yes that is what we should strive for. What we don’t need is more condos with retail space that creates minimum wage, no benefit, high turnover jobs.

June 25, 2014 at 11:37 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I don’t think the term Gentrification is being used properly in this context.

June 25, 2014 at 12:07 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I agree.

June 25, 2014 at 1:07 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Certainly, gentrification is related to ethnic or socio-economic standing, not competing land use types. As far as “gritification” I never even heard of this company until today. /shrug

June 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jenny JRegistered

I like the word “gritification.” I’m going to have to find an excuse to use that.

June 25, 2014 at 5:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I think it would be a mistake to not consider the possibility for both light-medium industrial uses and housing/retail to exist in the same area. When I think of the potential for the Foss Peninsula I’m reminded of Granville Island in Vancouver B.C. There’s already a good number of marina slips on the other side of the Foss Waterway. There’s close proximity to a transit center. There’s a bridge to Downtown Tacoma. Providing a buffer of light industrial between Downtown and the Port, as well as providing mixed occupancies, would be a benefit to our city. It doesn’t have to be battle of high-rise condos OR industrial uses. There are other possibilities and it shouldn’t be an either/or discussion. Balance is an option. But I admit, this is just a dream.

June 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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There’s no reason James’ vision shouldn’t become reality over time.  It only makes sense for the east side of the Foss to be a transitional land use between residential on the west side and heavy industry and shipping further east.  There need to be better public access requirements for new construction (whether light industrial, office, or residential) on both sides of the waterway.

June 25, 2014 at 1:59 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Gary Brackett

This is a debate that’s already been decided with the relatively recent adoption of Tacoma’s Shoreline Master Program.  Simply recapped, the east side of the Foss Waterway south of E. 11th Street is mixed use as far inland (east) as Dock Street.  Martinac is within this area, a choice they made during an earlier Tacoma Comp Plan Update. There the City has promised a “barrier” with the industrial development to the east of Dock St. and mitigation the responsibility of the mixed use developers. For the east side north of E. 11th Street, the area is reserved for industrial.  I guess time will tell us whether a mixed use shoreline development and street “barrier”  for industry are compatible uses or whether the ~600 feet channel width of the Foss Waterway itself is an effective buffer with downtown uses.

June 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thanks for clarifying the zoning rules—I had momentarily forgotten the details of the comp plan update.  I would hope that in the long run the city will make the same change north of 11th as they have south of it—why put the Center for Urban Waters up there and strand it among the tank farms?  It can’t be smart to tempt fate by indefinitely maintaining the tanks on soil that’s highly vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamies, and sea level rise.

June 26, 2014 at 9:53 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thanks for providing more information. I agree that it would be great to see the whole East side of the Foss, north beyond 11th, be zoned to encourage more diverse uses. The proximity of the detention center to this area really doesn’t help to encourage development. Nor does a refinery at the northern tip of the peninsula.

The evolution of Granville Island to its current mixed uses was borne out of a shortage of available land. Unfortunately, downtown Tacoma has a surplus of undeveloped land and not-fully-occupied buildings. There isn’t yet a need to jump to the other side of the Foss. So it’ll take either a very aggressive private development plan by a group with very deep pockets or many years to see any changes take place.

June 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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If it’s private money, all for it.  Public money, no way, fix what we already have first.

June 25, 2014 at 5:20 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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NameArthur L. Brown Sr.

I worked for Matinac in the 70’s, along with the fella that became my best man (37+ years ago) and the fella that became my 1st born’s Godfather ( two different guys both well remembered).
Sad to hear they are gowing under. the son Joe was about my age maybe a little older.

June 26, 2014 at 1:09 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tim Smith

And sad to see what happens when the State shifts ship building projects from Tacoma to Seattle.
Sad to see how little our legislators fought to get the State Ferry contract and keep it here rather than “ship” the work to Seattle so local land developers have a new piece of land to play with and pad their coffers.

The sad result told here: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023970771_tokitaeferryxml.html

July 2, 2014 at 9:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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