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Imagine Tacoma: Plant Vines

In recognition of Earth Day this week:

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright has been quoted as saying “A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”

So, now that Park Plaza South is getting a rebirth (with the City of Tacoma’s assistance), what to do about Park Plaza North?

Well, how about going really ‘green?’

 Plants: Install large ‘Lifeboxes’ (cross between a lifeboat and a flowerbox) hung off the structure and containing all types of climbing plants – Boston Ivy is my favorite as it turns a brilliant red in the fall and is not injurious to the concrete sturcture – that overtime will engulf the building. I seem to remember that at one time there were flower boxes hung off the sturcture – well, why not again? A habitat for birds and other small creatures in the heart of the City.

Detailing: Reinstall new guardrails and lighting all detailed in a nautical theme (e.g. pipe tube rails – no Skipper’s spars though).

Art Glass Windows: Openings along the North side are glazed for art glass installations viewed from Frost Park.

Street Trees: Existing ungainly street trees along Pacific Avenue are removed and replaced with trees planted at the column locations in coordination with spacing of the antique street light poles.

Arts Garage: The entire Pacific Avenue level is purchased by the City and/or Pierce County and/or MetroParks (reference Park Plaza South for recipe) and glaze-in the Darth Vader openings into an ‘Arts Garage’ – a multi-purpose enclosed space for community projects – a temporary LeMay showroom, a Children’s Museum installation, concert venue, art gallery, event center that is tied to Tacoma Dome/Convention Center/TAM/MoG/History Museum that brings elements of current shows downtown (e.g. riding the bLINK between the History Museum and an installation of large artifacts tied to a current show but located in the Arts Garage), First Night venue, main venue for downtown events (fun runs, etc…).

Happy Belated Earth Day,

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Sounds like it would make a big difference with minimal investment!

April 24, 2008 at 6:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Erik Hanberg

The only thing I would add would be light! Lots and lots of light on the Pacific side of the garage. The dimness has got to be turned around.

April 24, 2008 at 6:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

could also dig out all those terracotta tiles and install a surface better suited to the adhesion of sidewalk chalk .

Nice new column by the way David.  Are you going to backfill your fine concepts for the ball park and the tof plz?

April 24, 2008 at 6:50 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I think the green idea would be great for a temporary fix but the building really needs to come down for a larger project. It is just a waste of good <span class=“caps”>DCC</span> zoning.

April 24, 2008 at 7:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Maybe we could plant a few of those lifeboxes with some of the prettier varieties of vining legumes, fruits, herbs, and vegetables (like peas, beans, soy, strawberries, nasturtiums, and tomatoes) and feed some folks while we’re at it!

Honestly, your ivy would be more architecturally pleasing and probably a better bird habitat. But we do need to start learning to incorporate small gardens into our urban landscapes.

April 24, 2008 at 7:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Rick Jones

I agree w/ Jake overall, but as a ‘quick fix’ David’s concept is a breath of fresh air relative to what we have. I would like to see one amendment: instead of glazing in the Pacific side flush with the existing columns the windows should be set inwards four or more feet to allow more human space. space for tables, chairs, benches; space for retailers to display product, etc. It’s a fabulous improvement.

April 24, 2008 at 9:17 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Mofo from the Hood

That garage along with its ugly twin is such a disappointing feature on Pacific Avenue. Forget the practical aspect. How does a parking garage equate as a substitute for all the former commercial buildings on Tacoma’s main thoroughfare?


<span class=“caps”>MOFO</span>’S <span class=“caps”>FUN</span> <span class=“caps”>HISTORY</span> OF <span class=“caps”>TACOMA</span>

“How it all Began: Downtown Garages!”

Step 1: Bulldoze a main thoroughfare.

Step 2: Build a row of premium grade commercial buildings.

Step 3 (Applicable only to Tacoma): Demolish a row of premium grade commercial buildings and replace with bland parking garage.

Step 4: Convince succeeding generations that the real intent for the bland garages is to build community: Town Hall Safety Meetings, Urban Planning Lecture Events, Sidewalk Art, Community Inspired Hanging Gardens…

April 24, 2008 at 9:19 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Chris Karnes

Step 5: Bulldoze the bland parking garage

Step 6: Return to Step 2

April 24, 2008 at 10:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

Mr. Baarsma: Tear down this mockery of a construct!

April 24, 2008 at 11:54 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Demolish it.  Sell the land to a developer at a great price, who will build a mixed use, mid-rise building with underground parking.  Also extend the building all the way out to 9th, getting rid of the park.(sorry Frost Park taker backers/chalk off-ers)

April 25, 2008 at 1:03 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

CA: it’s bad luck to disturb the tomb of a murdered policeman.  You want him haunting your fancy new building? He’d blow the minds of all teh squares man.

April 25, 2008 at 1:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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“it’s bad luck to disturb the tomb of a murdered policeman.”

Maybe we can establish some sort of Frost tribute over at the Firemans Park.

April 25, 2008 at 2:17 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Boe

Some additional clarification:

Underground Parking:  This is probably another ‘imagine tacoma’ project but underground parking <span class=“caps”>WEST</span> of Pacific Avenue in Downtown Tacoma is extremently difficult if not impossible.  Why?  Because Tacoma is built on rock and not fill (why is there an underground tour in Seattle? – because it is built on crap and the orignal town sank into the swamp – see Monty Python and Holy Grail)and the same reason we ‘bounced’ and Seattle ‘swayed’ during the Nisqually Earthquake. Combine the perched water that runs down this rock and the ridicously narrow street 1/2 blocks (less than 100 feet) – and you can understand why these parking garages where built in this aerie manner.

I like the hanging gardens of Tacoma concept though – and the vegetable gardens – maybe sell the local produce at the Farmers’ Market? 

And RR – Tollefson and Cheney consideration are currently evolving in the architectural incubator with some Kunstler additives.

April 25, 2008 at 1:04 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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This column is a great idea. I’ve long wanted to develop some kind of group called “Infill Tacoma” or something similar, where we go and find some underutilized parcel or block and design something to put in its place. For those of us who are not architects but spend endless hours putting together sketches of the Tacoma we would like to see…

April 25, 2008 at 3:23 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

CA: Frost Tribute in Fireman’s Park?  You’d be willing to spark street riots between the Police Union and Fireman’s Union?  Good gravy!

April 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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“CA: Frost Tribute in Fireman’s Park? You’d be willing to spark street riots between the Police Union and Fireman’s Union? Good gravy!”

Haha.  A fine gadfly you are RR!  How about we just name the replacement building the Frost Building?

April 25, 2008 at 7:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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The only habitat Boston ivy will create, perhaps, would be for house sparrows.  House sparrows, for those who are unaware, are an invasive bird that is best described as a cross between a thug and an incontinent.  No plants would be a better choice than ivy.  If Tacoma really wants to go green, banning ivy completely would be a really great start.  Perhaps if Park Place North were allowed to completely deteriorate, fireweed, a decent native, would colonize the upper deck.

April 26, 2008 at 4:12 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Mr. Boe should know better than to cover up one mess with another.  Boston Ivy loses its leaves in the winter, so the building will be covered in brown, dead looking vines much of the year. 

Does the city have the money to water, clean up dead leaves and trim vines?

April 28, 2008 at 2:43 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thanks, Highwater, for the reminder about invasive ivy. Is Boston Ivy as invasive as English Ivy? It is English Ivy that is choking out the native trees in our region, correct?

And Lowell may have a point about maintenance. The landscaping crews at University of Puget Sound do spend time each year using the lift to trim the vines away from doorways and windows to give it the neat effect shown in the picture above.

However, there are some native plants and non-invasive plants that could be used to add some green and wildlife habitat to the structure. With some research and conversation, I’m sure an agreement could be reached. Native bleeding hearts do well in full sun and have a nice cascading habit. Native honeysuckle vines would cover the structure and provide some greenery. Plus, their flowers might help out some hummingbirds.

April 28, 2008 at 3:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Boe

The ‘mess’ of the Park Plaza North is likely to be around for another 25 years – and if we are arguing about what type of planting is appropriate – hoorah!  And all gardens are high maintenance – be they vertical or horizontal I find it interesting that all of the discusson has centered on the plant selections and not the concept of the Arts Garage – perhaps that is a non-starter (pun intended).

April 28, 2008 at 11:11 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Mofo from the Hood

This idea about applying art and art events to the bland parking garage…maybe we should wait and see how that plan works out for the Murano. I hope it works out. I’m keeping my eyes crossed.

April 29, 2008 at 3:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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crenshaw sepulveda

Maybe they should be inspecting the Park North Plaza to see if there are any structural defects.  Maybe the garage should be condemned like the Morgan bridge was condemned. The North Plaza looks like the work of a lowest bidder if ever there was one. We really need to eradicate this scourge from our midst.  Failing that, let people park their AirStreams there and turn the entire mess into an upscale urban trailer park. I’d imagine the roof level could be turned into a lovely trailer park for a good many residents. Sometimes you think outside of the box, sometimes you think inside of the box.

April 29, 2008 at 4:56 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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June 1, 2018 at 4:13 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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