Exit133 is about Tacoma
Imagine Tacoma - Port DMZ
The City of Tacoma is in the midst of developing a Downtown Plan Update (not a Master Plan per se but a document that may likely recommend the creation of a Master Plan). There is, however, an apparent huge omission in the scope of this undertaking: The Downtown Plan Update does not include the Thea Foss Waterway (the rationale behind this omission is that the Thea Foss has its own plan – which was last updated almost 10 years ago). Although the ‘working definition’ of Downtown Tacoma stretches over to include the East side of the Foss, the limitation of the update scope creates a further challenge to adequately address the integration of the waterfront into the fabric of upland Downtown (a specific note of concern raised by Lars Gemzoe – the Danish architect brought in by the City Council last April to provide recommendations to salvage Tollefson Plaza). So Imagine Tacoma looks at what an expanded Eastern edge of Downtown Tacoma might be:
Port DFZ (Douglas Fir Zone)
While the Port should be rightly concerned about development ‘creep’ onto their industrial lands – why not plant a 100 foot wide buffer aligned along the East Side of East ‘D’ Street to define the edge of the heavy industrial uses (not an original idea – as it has been proposed by local architects for many years). The view from the slope of Downtown would have a ribbon of green that can define this hard zoning edge while ‘softening’ the industrial aesthetic of the panorama (envision a Christo fence of fir trees). This would then allow the Port of Tacoma to become ‘a player’ in the mixed-use development of the East side of the Thea Foss. For the Foss Waterway to succeed, BOTH sides of the waterway need to be developed with pedestrian oriented activity – i.e. we cannot continue to have a Berlin Wall of Water existing down the center of the waterway.
If Granville Island can work with a concrete factory in its midst, the East side of the Foss can thrive with the unique aspects of the existing industrial uses. The East side should allow a variety of uses – from existing ship building to residential lofts to glass hot shops. Maybe the East side could really become Tacoma’s own Murano Peninsula – basking in afternoon sun with the best views of the City from across the Foss Waterway.
What if the City helped sponsor a review of all of the existing uses along the waterway for incorporating sustainability elements – from best practice procedures to incorporating green building elements. With the City of Tacoma spending yet undetermined millions on the development of Urban Waters – then why not make it a flag ship for the whole peninsula about maintaining viable industrial port lands while achieving sustainable environmental goals?
Now many of these item have been covered by Imagine Tacoma before – Murray Morgan Bridge, Foss Connections I + II, Cheney Stadium Relocation, MOG inside-out – but without the Port of Tacoma becoming a partner in the necessary urban development of the Thea Foss (West and East sides), then the concerted efforts spent in the rest of the Downtown will remain only partially successful.
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