Imagine Tacoma – Sustainable Waters

When mulling over a few of the recent news items – the ground-breaking for the Urban Waters Project on the East Side of the Thea Foss, the Old City Hall owners looking for tenants for the signature (albeit neglected) structure, the City of Tacoma hiring a Director of Sustainability, and recent passing of architect emeritus Alan Liddle (who as a dedicated modernist AND a champion of historical preservation) – I imagined locating Urban Waters within Old City Hall:

Location:
The first decision about developing an environmentally ‘green’ project is site selection. Location, location, location – that is easily accessible by a mass-transit system (thus occupants don’t have to come by single occupancy vehicles). The Urban Waters’ site is located on the East Side of the Foss – no bus connection, no reasonable pedestrian connection to mass transit – whereas Old City Hall is on a bus route, two-blocks from the Pierce Transit Station and one-block from a bLINK station (thus providing a direct connection to UW-T).

Rehabilitation:
Reusing existing buildings is far ‘greener’ than constructing a new building of similar size no matter how energy efficient the new structure is. Recent studies in England have shown that takes between 35-50 years of energy savings from a new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building to equal the embodied energy of your average older building – and there is nothing average about Old City Hall.

Economic Development:
All of those occupants and visitors to Urban Waters – I guess they are going to be packing their own lunches, eh? At Old City Hall, such a redevelopment use would not only infuse more weekday inhabitants into the Downtown Core but also make the redevelopment of all of the surround properties more desirable for redevelopment as well (Elks Lodge, etc…).

Access to Water:
Does Urban Waters need to be located directly next to the water? Does is pump water into the building on a constant basis – or is it really about taking samples from a variety of locations – and to study the science of our upland contributing areas to the Puget Sound? Old City Hall has spectacular views of all of a variety of such contributing environments and it is located directly adjacent to a steep slope bluff that rings most of our North and West parts of our City.

Costs:
At over $700/sf for Urban Waters on the East Side of the Foss, you could rehabilitate Old City Hall for their use, purchase the parking lot across Commerce and develop a mixed-use retail/office/parking structure with all of the parking ‘up against’ the large grade differential up to Broadway, create an education center, and still have $1m left over for a boat.

So while the design for the new Urban Waters located on the East Side of the Foss may have all of the bells and whistles to take it to a LEED Platinum Level Rating, is it not really functioning within Tacoma more like a ‘Suburban’ Waters?


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Comments

Jesse

You nailed this one.

I’m perplexed why the city would open up the east side of the Foss for business development anyways.  One of the first things you do when you want to re-vamp a DT is to create better zoning, a master plan, and an urban growth boundary.  This east side of Foss development opens up <span class=“caps”>MORE</span> buildable land in the downtown area when there are <span class=“caps”>PLENTY</span> of vacant lots, under-utilized or vacant, and fixer buildings pretty much everywhere.

May 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Morty

As the new manager of Old City Hall I would welcome them….I do have vacant space. I like the renderings David

May 23, 2009 at 7:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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MattonGrant

Well Kristi, looks like David soft-pitched you one right into your wheelhouse.

May 27, 2009 at 7:16 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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