Imagine Tacoma – Foss Field (of Dreams?)

With the recent news that the Foss Waterway Authority has granted another extension to the Hotel/Hotel with Condominiums/Hotel with less Condominiums Project located between Thea’s Landing and The Esplanade (and considering the ongoing work to ‘programme’ left-over urban space (sic) within the downtown core), Imagine Tacoma considers a opportunistic temporary use of the long fallow property along the City Waterway:

A Grass Field
With some minor fill and grading of the site (and a couple of yard drains for good measure), a shallow slope can be achieved up to the developed perimeter of the site – and presto, a multipurpose outdoor amphitheatre (for the local politico – envision a scaled down Chicago’s Millennium Park or Malmo’s Folkets). Maybe add a couple of sand volleyball pits at the lower level for good measure (and just think of the bocce potential!). I am sure funding could be found for this modification – maybe as sustainable mitigation credits to off-set the current heatsink of Tollefson Plaza?

BNSF Stage
With all of the negotiation with BNSF on the Prairie Line and Sounder Extension, get them to throw in a couple of flatbed railcars for a stage located along the existing south wall of the site.

Improve Connections to the Waterway
With the above improvements, Downtown Tacoma now has a multi-function open space that has wonderful views of Mt. Rainier, the Foss Waterway, Union Station, Main BSNF Railway (can be part of the experience just like Safeco – only safer), and the Murray Morgan Bridge. As even the temporary use of the property would force improvements of the connections of the Foss Waterway into Downtown: Set the Chihuly Bridge Free, Ride the Bridge, Thea Foss Connections II, Prairie TAM Companion and Tall Ship Connections.

So instead of letting development sites sit fallow in hopes of a gallant developer coming to the rescue (and given them extension after extension), how about encouraging temporary permitted uses of such public lands? Who knows, it might foster local initiative successes – and allow for ‘new’ entities to succeed prior to large amount of investment dollars spent validating their conception.


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Comments

morgan

Great concept David! Almost revolutionary for Tacoma. This is something residents have been trying to get <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> and the city to do for years with the hillside acreage they both own in downtown. What will it take to get them to move?! Or is it just a matter of a group forming to take temporary ownership like the Frost Park Chalkies?

September 10, 2008 at 5:17 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Erik B.

So instead of letting development sites sit fallow in hopes of a gallant developer coming to the rescue (and given them extension after extension), how about encouraging temporary permitted uses of such public lands?

Temporary use yes.  Good idea.

But this area is dead day after day and needs thousands of more humans.

September 10, 2008 at 5:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Squid

Sand volleyball pits, <span class=“caps”>YES</span>!  Based on the popularity of beach volleyball at the recent Olympic Games, I think that some of these might indeed attract the foot traffic we so desperately need in this area.  Playing the game in polar fleece may mitigate some of that popularity, but still.

September 10, 2008 at 5:44 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jake

<span class=“caps”>FYI</span>: There already is a sand volleyball pit in front of The Esplanade

September 10, 2008 at 6:46 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Throax O'Tool

it’s <span class=“caps”>DOA</span> down on the Foss, nearly all the time. Granted, days are busier, but it’s still far less than we really need for a successful urban core.

I know the Esplanade was supposed to help, but is it? When I got to work at 5:30 in the morning and pass it on 705, no lights are on, except for the same one on the top floor.

I’m not sure if it’s complete enough for occupancy yet. But that’s aside from the point I was getting at. They’re condos, and not cheap ones either. I mean, who is going to (or can) pay over $300K for a condo these days?

If we want more life on the Foss, we can’t rely on condos and hotels. We need green space, easier access; I’m telling you, an exit for Dock Street off of 705 would help a lot. It isn’t particularly easy to get to Dock Street (especially for those who don’t go there often… my sister got lost and ended up in the Port trying to get to Dock Street), so we need to have compelling reasons to go there. As of the moment, there isn’t. David’s idea is pretty awesome, and we need more creative thinking than that. Using empty lots for temporary parks or what not is certainly preferable to gravel and nothingness.

September 10, 2008 at 11:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jesse

I always thought that if <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> wanted to be a good neighbor, they’d craft thier vacant property on the hillside into parks.  Just keep the trees, grade the land, install the <span class=“caps”>MAJOR</span> pathways through the property they’ll use in the future, fix the perimeter roads, and keep it mowed.  Good neighbors mow thier yards and keep thier property up.  Why should <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> be any different?  Would they allow this to continue on thier Seattle campus?  I suspect not.

September 11, 2008 at 2:10 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Squid

Right on Jesse.

September 11, 2008 at 4:14 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Douglas Tooley

High end condo projects, convention center districts and street level retail are all concepts that have been applied elsewhere, and here, with some success.

Often the civic cognoscenti will take this commonly accepted wisdom as an unchallengeable authority – to question it is to challenge business, America, and apple pie.

But in reality these types of development are only indicators of a healthy economy and City – and, most likely, Tacoma’s own particular mix – the one that works the best here – will not be what works the best elsewhere.

I hope you are still with me, the point I’m getting at here is that we need to stay with fundamentals.

Use of open space, as per Boe, is definitely a good starting point.  The crucial elements of healthy city are housing, industry, office space for services (including Boe’s), transportation, and places to associate with folks you share something with.

Tacoma’s strength is affordable ownership and it is <span class=“caps”>COMPETITIVE</span> Condos and single family houses that will build this City, not an attempt to replicate Seattle for the primadonnas.

A land trust, combining housing with open space preservation with an experienced and appropriately connected board might just be the way to go…

September 12, 2008 at 7:19 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Joe P

More open space on the Foss?  Yes!  David Boe hits the nail on the head again with a proposal to make the city more livable.  Most of the powers that be in this town seem to think that more buildings = a great city, but you need the open, people space, as well.  No one wants to live in a city made up of nothing but tall buildings (well maybe the developers do).  If a city is livable it will attract more people and grow.

September 12, 2008 at 7:50 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Anike

I like these ideas.  It would convince me to spend more time along Thea Foss if there was a good greenspace rather than a never-ending expanse of cement and walls.

September 13, 2008 at 5:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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