Exit133 is about Tacoma
Imagine Tacoma – Density or No Density?
With the posting this week about the rest of the Marcato Project Property now up for sale, the City of Tacoma continuing to wrestle with incentives to spur residential development in Downtown and the Mixed-use Centers, and the continuing bailout/nationalizing/rescuing feeding frenzy among this nation’s historic economic engines, imagine what a low-scale (but significantly dense) development pattern could emerge with the application of some physical incentives within our urban centers:
Incentive Development through the Vacating of excess Right-of-Way:
As noted in previous IT ruminations – Vertically Challenged 101– development in Downtown Tacoma is challenged by long narrow blocks. Wide alleys (40 feet instead of a typical 20 feet) combined with significantly wide streets and the resulting blocks become incredibly inefficient for development. So since the City Council is willing to give up Right-of-Way to support pet projects (Convention Center, Pacific Plaza), why not develop a ‘Complete Streets’ design for Downtown that can also look at providing additional property for new development that meet published quality standards – rather than opting to take the property off the tax roles for the next 8 to 10 years?
Standard Building Concept:
As many Cities have standard approved building plans for residential projects, why not develop an approved concept plan and quality specification that allows developers to develop the bones of buildings that can be adapted for a variety of uses – retail, office, live/work – and utilize the narrowed alleys’ for internal parking access (e.g the old Sears Store – now Franciscan Health Services – on Market Street is model for such a structure). The City of Tacoma Building Department has been progressive in developing the 5 over 2 construction system that has been responsible for the efficient design and construction of multi-story residential– so why not take it to the next step and look at creating shared site infrastructure costs that will allow for smaller developments to happen without taking the huge financial hit for required code installation (an cost of the elevator is the same if the floor is 3,000 sf or 30,000 sf)? Some standardized easements could do the trick – as is done to solve these issues when rehabilitating existing buildings – and become part of a physical incentive package.
Incentives for Going Green:
While the City of Tacoma will spend over $40m developing Urban Waters alone, why not have the new Sustainability Czar develop programs to provide incentives to incorporate green systems for all new and existing projects. Yes, I know there is a State Law that forbids the type of fraternizing that goes on in Portland and Chicago – but maybe it is time to get that law changed folks in order to provide incentives for going green (just do it).
And why imagine these type of alternate development incentives? Because this town needs residential density folks. We need to get these existing surface parking lots within buildings that can incorporate the parking but also provide retail along the street and office and residential spaces above (with densities of 60-100 units an acre). We can no longer keep waiting for Richie Sexson (or similar) to hit a grand slam homerun – we need to provide real tangible incentives to obtain Ichiro singles and doubles. If you want your grocery store, your street cars, your retail boutiques, your etc… – it is all about getting dense – and getting dense quickly and affordably.
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