Imagine Tacoma - Tear It Down! Part 1

The New York Times last week asked its readers whether there are buildings so unattractive, out-of-context, inappropriately situated or just ungainly that they should be demolished? Nicolai Ouroussoff’s provocative article then goes on to list his personal choices in New York City. Read it. I recommend it.

Imagine Tacoma asks “So which building would you knock down in Tacoma and why?” Using Ouroussoff’s guidelines for consideration – not mere aesthetics, a building must either exhibit a total disregard for their surrounding context or destroy a beloved vista – and removing them would make room for new imaginative possibilities.

My selection has been deposited in a sealed manila envelope and delivered to Exit133 for publication next week.

So – which building do you want brought down and what’s your justification for such a selection?

Do you want to help the folks at Exit133 pay our bills and keep up with of all things Tacoma? Do you want to see even more coverage? Exit133 has always been free to read and comment, and it will stay that way. However, over the years, readers have contributed to the bank account to help us keep up our coverage of goings-on around town. Contribute and this message disappears!

Support Exit133



The Convention Center.  Actually, it should be towed; its blocking the street.

October 1, 2008 at 11:41 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


The Marriott – it just doesn’t fit and its blocking the Convention Center…. sorry Gulag….

October 1, 2008 at 11:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Claudia Riedener

The Detention Center, no doubt. And then the jail. Everything else might no be perfect, but I can live with it.

October 1, 2008 at 11:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

crenshaw sepulveda

Thank you, Claudia, I don’t need any tile but for a comment so close to my heart I just might buy some from you.

October 2, 2008 at 12:09 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Mofo from the Hood

No Brainer and it’s a twofer.

• IL <span class=“caps”>DUETTO</span> <span class=“caps”>IMPLOSION</span> •

Park Plaza North et Park Plaza South.

October 2, 2008 at 12:28 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Kilworth Chapel at <span class=“caps”>UPS</span>. A rectangular box of no particular character and lousy seating.

Also, the WW2 barracks hauled there as temporary structures in the 1950’s, and still housing the OT department and the maintenance services.

October 2, 2008 at 12:30 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Kevin Phelps

Mofo – I would hold off suggesting to implode the South Park Garage. I have seen the plans for the current renovation and what they are doing to that monstrocity is quite remarkable. Plus, it will be a L.E.E.D.S building, probably silver or gold. The final product should be a plus for downtown in that it will bring class A office space and add additional parking stalls.

October 2, 2008 at 12:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Park Plaza North, the Tacoma Mall, <span class=“caps”>USA</span> of Yesterday (what a great location!), the Jail, some of the low income stuff downtown (renovate and rerent it!) and all Bail Bonds joints in town.

October 2, 2008 at 2:23 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


The block just north of Park Plaza South: The ugly cement building, the <span class=“caps”>MBA</span>/Ticor building, The ugly garage, and the WaMu building! Oh and while they are at it South Park still has time to be demolished so we can get something a bit taller (zoning allows 400’) in there!

October 2, 2008 at 2:41 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

RR Anderson

I would like to see the Mecca condo building plowed back into the earth… and from the smoldering ruins of that building I would like to see erected an <span class=“caps”>ADULT</span> <span class=“caps”>THEATRE</span> built to spec from vintage Buick dealership plans.

I would like to see the one tower of the winthrop hotel demolished and then painstakingly reconstructed on the other side where the second winthrop hotel tower was never realized. 

Next I would destroy the current St. Joseph Hospital and build a larger, wobblier and rounder-windowed version built which is more on par with the lousy modern architecture of today’s standards… perhaps in the shape of an octopus made of titanium, with tungsten-carbide window frames paying special attention to assure that every window leaked   and that snow and Ice would fall off the roof and kill sick people and pregnant women on the sidewalk or near entrances.

October 2, 2008 at 3:19 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I 3rd the jail, 4th the Park Plaza North parking garage – and most of the schlock built in the 60s and 70s.

October 2, 2008 at 3:19 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Marriott. The sidewalk level design seems to blend, but the stucko siding and vents below the windows are aesthetically horrible.

The Jack n the box and the Pierce County Fleet Services buildings on Pacific / S 25th should also be removed.

October 2, 2008 at 3:34 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Jefferson Elementary School.  It looks like a prison on a huge piece of barren land that is mostly unused by the children.  I would like to see something beautiful, in the style of historic architecture in its place, possibly in the style of the University of Puget Sound.  I would also like to see the Mason Loop trail continued in the place of the pointless bark and shrubbery on Mason St.  A patch of native trees would also be nice somewhere on the grounds.

October 2, 2008 at 3:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


i would take down that grey lawyer’s office building on ruston way that blocks the water view.  I think we need to stop building businesses on pilings to block the public’s view of the sound.  also, i’d tear down the smelter.  and renovate the dome, it’s really dull looking.

October 2, 2008 at 5:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Erik B.

So – which building do you want brought down and what’s your justification for such a selection?

Without a doubt the blightful deadness inducing Park Plaza North Parking Garage:

October 2, 2008 at 5:29 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool

The jail in downtown needs to go, although the new part on Yakima isn’t so bad.

But the County-City building and the “old” jail…. eyesores.

But as long as I’m at it:

The new garage next to the unfinished Midtown Lofts… ugly!

In honor of Gulag, I’ll 4th or 5th or whatever about the real Gulag down on St Paul… it’s gotta go for oh, so many reasons.

The short, glassy building next to the Murano and the <span class=“caps”>TFC</span>. We need something at least 300’ in that corner, not 30’

The Commencement in Ruston. It’s way too big for being where it is. While I find the design to be OK, it really ought to be across the street in the whole Point Ruston development.

The ugly <span class=“caps”>TICOR</span> building, as mentioned earlier…

Chelsea Heights.

Granted, it’s better than the decaying gas station that was there. But geeze louise! This “modern” style we’re seeing all over (especially in Seattle) is going to look as dated in 25 years as the County building does today. If it was less trendy, I’d be more pleased with it… if it ever gets finished.

This was taken in April… looks practically the same 6 months later. Will it ever be finished?

October 2, 2008 at 5:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

RR Anderson

nice pictures thorax

October 2, 2008 at 5:59 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I second your sentiment about <span class=“caps”>TRA</span>’s parking garage next to Midtown Lofts, Thorax. It makes you wonder if it’s all worthwhile to have <span class=“caps”>TRA</span> move downtown if they’re going to turn everything in sight into a parking garage. The historic auditorium to the south of the Ford Building: ugly parking garage. Now this. The architect’s early renderings showed a three- or four-story mixed use building there.

I’m very disappointed that <span class=“caps”>TRA</span> Medical Imaging could be allowed to desecrate downtown like this.

Many people would agree with the above statement. Now it’s time to have some fun and start some controversy. I think every home on a state or national historic register should be torn down and replaced with big condominiums!

October 2, 2008 at 6:40 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool

think every home on a state or national historic register should be torn down and replaced with big condominiums!

Only if I can get one of those 500’ towers to myself. I mean, it’s not like they can sell condos anymore.

Man, the ladies would be lining up at my place.

“Yeah, baby. Like the condo tower? I own the whole thing. Yeah, that’s right… the 47th floor is one big hot tub. Go ahead and bring your 18 hot friends…”

Ok… I know, dream on.

But would something clean, tall and not built in 1970 be too much to ask for? Would something other than a parking garage be too much for our fair city?

I’d love to see the empty hole where Greyhound used to be replaced with something like this.

October 2, 2008 at 7:28 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool

nice pictures thorax

Thanks! You should see some of the ones I have… I make Tacoma look good!

And yes, I have more and even better pictures than just the sample below…

October 2, 2008 at 7:48 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Although these aren’t buildings, I would like to see those grain elevator looking structures on Ruston Way gone as well as those fuel holding drums on the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway.

October 2, 2008 at 12:59 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I would tear down each and every quick cash lending place on 6th ave.  In their place I would put a tombstone that read, “<span class=“caps”>RIP</span> your credit”

October 2, 2008 at 1:18 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Tacoma Dome!

Wow, I’m the first person to say “tear it down!”  It’s the first thing people see when they come into town.  I just moved to Tacoma from Seattle, but I’m originally from Portland.  Coming from Portland, my impression of Tacoma was never the smell (mostly people in Seattle joke about that one).  What people outside of Seattle first see is the butt-ugly dome! :-)

I mean, yahoo that it brings much-needed revenue to the city coffers, but since you asked, “The Dome is Ugly!”

October 2, 2008 at 4:13 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Flyin' V

Demo everything on Tacoma Ave., from McDonalds to Holy Rosary, except for the handful of restored turn of the century buildings and the library — including the County-City building.  What a mish-mash of buildings with great views.

I also echo Park Plaza North (the last remaining set decoration from The Planet of the Apes movie set), and <span class=“caps”>WAMU</span>, Ticor, and that above ground bomb shelter / bunker building just North of Park Plaza South.

October 2, 2008 at 5:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool

The “New” Labor Ready building. Not bad height (I guess) but it looks really ugly.

Well, maybe it can be spared. Just put new cladding on it… so for 1/4 the cost of a new building, we can something that doesn’t look like a failed 70s experiment

Also, let’s not forget the awkward, and too-short building over on A street by Fireman’s Park. It’s the one with the Bank of America in it. That one has to go!

Do I even need to mention the parking garage across from Labor Ready?

The A Street stretch could be good and dense, but we let it fail.

You can see the “New” Labor Ready bldg to the right of Russell, and the BofA bldg to the left of Russell in the far back

October 2, 2008 at 5:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool


Hey, after this is done, can we have a post on T-Town buildings we like?

I’d love a post like that.

October 2, 2008 at 5:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I suppose my real #1 is North Park Place, but too many people have already taken that one. Too obvious.

So I turn my vote to a neighborhood not included in anyone else’s comments: the 6th Ave hotspot. I hate the dirty aluminum-sided box that houses House of Records on the ground story and some Fraternal Order of Random Animal upstairs. It’s across the street from Shakabrah.

Even better, tear down that building and the corner building holding Affordable Animal Hospital and other crappy offices and build an as-attractive-as-possible parking garage there. Parking garage?! you say? Yes, because then we can get rid of the limited on-street parking to beautify the area and make room for a streetcar line! Maybe a streetcar stop can be right there on that parking garage corner, it’s pretty central to that district.

October 2, 2008 at 6:45 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

jessica spring

Keep the dome, but paint Warhol’s flower on it.

Tear down the Mall and replace it with a farm—one that has a huge corn maze.

October 2, 2008 at 8:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

RR Anderson

turn this into a grocery store!  A magnificent phallic grocery store.

October 3, 2008 at 3:05 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool

I thought we were more mature than that…

But as long as we’re going there, look at the dealership from like the 6th floor of the Walker.

Those two bulbed-out areas in front really make that building look inappropriate from a few stories up…

October 3, 2008 at 5:15 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool

Hey, Exit 133 crew…

How do I start a thread? We really need a “Buildings you like” thread.

After all the negative stuff lately, something positive would be nice.

October 3, 2008 at 5:36 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


<span class=“caps”>SAVE</span> <span class=“caps”>THE</span> “UGLY” <span class=“caps”>BUILDINGS</span>!!!  They add to the patina of our fair city!  Eventually the useful buildings will survive and be reused and the poorly designed ones will fall to the wreaking ball.  Instead, we should tear down all the billboards that currently jockey for attention along I-5 just outside of Tacoma.  Maybe we could replace them with really tall trees…

October 3, 2008 at 2:18 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

michael g.

I’m with whoever suggested tearing down that purplish-orangish glass building by the Hotel Murano.  It would be a good backdrop for a 1980s movie though. 

I also agree that the Tacoma Dome is not a real asset — I’d trade it for a new minor league ballpark in that location if building one on the tideflats isn’t in the cards.

But the first things I’d like to see removed, though they’re not buildings, are all the hideous video billboards on I-5 — especially the new one advertising <span class=“caps”>EQC</span>.  Maybe they’re the Puyallup Tribe’s revenge for industrial interests destroying the ecological function of the Puyallup River estuary, but the blinding billboards sure don’t help Tacoma’s image (or safety on I-5).  Expanding on that, it wouldn’t hurt to tear down Fife and start over…

October 3, 2008 at 3:01 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

David Boe

Aesthetic judgements of buildings slips into a ‘style’ appreciation discussion – and the passage of time may significantly change opinions (the Northern Pacific Building, Swiss Hall and old Bon Marche were once considered to have no redeeming value and better suited as bulldozer bait).  What is more compelling to consider are buildings that actually suck a part of your soul when they are viewed <span class=“caps”>AND</span>/OR their location is actually offensive and destroys a vista or defiles a sacred space.

October 3, 2008 at 4:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


What would I blow up? Condos in Ruston – particularly on the hillside.  The Condos being built down below on the reclaimed toxic site should also be removed.  The issue I have is scale and fit.  They overwhealm the surroundings, and their character is out of place.

October 3, 2008 at 6:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I can’t say I disagree with any of the above, but I’ll add a soul-sucking vote for the Rainier Pacific headquarters.

October 3, 2008 at 7:13 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

hotttie mcpottie

I gotta second the “save the ugly buildings” comment.

It is the variety and flavor of the city – I personally <span class=“caps”>LOVE</span> the quirkeyness of the <span class=“caps”>USA</span> of Yesterday bldg <span class=“caps”>AND</span> the short glassy one!

one man’s trash…

October 3, 2008 at 8:16 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I hope I was reading wrongly, and the people who mentioned tearing down the “old jail” do not mean the one on pacific across from the Old City Hall building. :( Those are the two best buildings in the city, especially the old jail. And the old Buick dealership? Are you joking? The guy who owns it now may be a scumbag but the building itself is great. They’ve already ruined pacific avenue south of Union Station…quit knocking over old buildings!

As for things to tear down, tear down some of the crappy stuff from the 80’s and 90’s and 00’s, like the sheraton, the convention center (seriously tacoma, wtf) and the hideous eyesore hotel they put on the waterfront.

Worst of all: that development on North 49th and Baltimore where the weather station used to be. What a horrible ugly mess. How did that ever get approved and pass water view restrictions?

October 3, 2008 at 11:34 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I forgot to mention another of the worst eyesores in the city: the museum of glass! The building is a combination of soviet style menace architecture and the “artwork” (blue garbage bags) on the bridge over the downtown spur are even worse!

October 4, 2008 at 12:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Whoa Brad, lay off the <span class=“caps”>MOG</span>.

My three “worst buildings to happen to Tacoma” are:

1. The Pacific Tower Building (condos on Pacific on the hill above I-5)

2. the building at the corner of K and Division (mainly because of what used to be there – The Bavarian)

3. the new Stadium H.S. Performing Arts Center (great facility, but it completely blocked the view of the best building in town).

I’m glad no one has said the Multicare Boiler Facility – that’s turning into one of my favorite new buildings in the past five years.

October 4, 2008 at 3:48 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

RR Anderson

Hey throax, why don’t you poke on over to Feed Tacoma and set up your own Architecture Photo blog?  You could be our David Boe! 

And hey can you email me a picture of the Buick Dealership from the inappropriate angle?  I’ll trade you something for it… or pay you in <span class=“caps”>HFW</span> Pennies(1 <span class=“caps”>HFW</span> penny = $2 <span class=“caps”>USD</span>).

October 4, 2008 at 6:30 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Thorax O'Tool

I don’t have any pics of it from up high. Years ago, an ex of mine lived there. Needless to say, no pictures survived.

<span class=“caps”>BUT</span> I may be able to get in there for a condo tour or something on my next day off… I’ll see what I can do… stay tuned!

I just might set up an arch blog on FeedTac. We’ll see how motivated about that I feel after work…

October 4, 2008 at 1:03 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


We really need a “Buildings you like” thread.

We’ll get something going here shortly.

October 4, 2008 at 2:21 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

laura Hanan

The Bank of America concrete and view obstructing monolith would not be missed.

I agree about the Chihuly blue sculpture over the freeway. I kept waiting for them to pull of the blue plastic so I could see the art…then I realized sadly it was the art ;-(

October 4, 2008 at 9:49 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


David, you have obviously hit a nerve. I guess the question now is: who has a sledge hammer?

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

0 | 0


MoG looks great from the deck at Johnny’s Dock, but horrible from the city side.  The building turns it’s back on the city in favor of a waterfront entry.  Interesting idea, but failure in practice. The cone is a redeeming feature, but overall a mish-mash that made no effort to complement Albers Mill.  In fact, it expresses contempt for the Mill. 

Re: the blue Chihuly ice cubes, one can argue its artistic merits, but that it is also aging poorly in the elements is a simple fact.  Dingy.  The rest of the Bridge O’Glass I like.

October 6, 2008 at 9:10 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

J. Cote

Tear down the following: (most are repeats) Build more Parks and Community Gardens in place of these.

1.The new Convention Center and the stump of a Hotel in front of it. (Make Tollefson Park an actual park!

2. PC Jail, Old and New. Hell, we can’t afford to fill it!

3. Tacoma Mall. Who can afford to shop, anyway, or pay for the gas to get there? And while we’re in the Neighborhood…

4. That dumb-looking LegoLand on the hill above the Mall. Because they can see the Cascades and Mt. Tahoma, they can sell them for half a Million each??? Next good-sized quake they’ll slide down into the new Nordstrom’s anyway.

5. Any former warehouse downtown that now contains more than 50% Condos and no decent restaurant.

6. <span class=“caps”>ANY</span> building East of Pacific Avenue that was constructed to be used only to house confused yuppy puppies in a Lego type fashion (OK, “Waterfront Condos”) Get a lawn and plant a garden for Chrissake!

7. That stupid looking “fish hook attached to the Hotel Sheraton. Who’s idea was <span class=“caps”>THAT</span>??

8. Tacoma Dome. Let’s build the largest Truck Stop in the Northwest and sell <span class=“caps”>JUST</span> <span class=“caps”>BIODIESEL</span>. The smell of doughnuts would be heavenly as the Big-rigs chug up the hill. Visualize a more <span class=“caps”>FRAGRANT</span> Tacoma!!

Finally… Wilson High School. They could have saved a couple of the 120 Million that they threw at Stadium and actually built something that fits into the neighborhood. Hell, the Jail looks less like a prison than this High School. Who was in on the planning for this, Moe Larry or Curley Joe???

October 7, 2008 at 2:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Tacoma Dome…make more room for the LeMay Museum so we can see his <span class=“caps”>ENTIRE</span> collection. Also…CLEAN UP <span class=“caps”>THE</span> <span class=“caps”>LUZON</span>!

October 7, 2008 at 7:11 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


I’m actually not a fan of the new Wilson High School. I can’t figure out why the trend among architects is to recycle correctional institution site plans and gussy them up with personalityless concrete plazas & landscaping and call it a high school.

October 8, 2008 at 1:06 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Mofo from the Hood

I’ve gotta take a stand with 47 & 49 about Wilson High School. As an alum I should’ve mentioned that first. I guess the state of the current campus traumatized me so much that until now I’ve been unable to talk about it.

The campus layout and mix of building design styles is downright disorienting. When I drive or ride my bike past the place I force myself to keep my eyes on the road.  What’s the deal with building trend (all over town too) of using metal cladding that looks like railroad boxcar walls? That campus is so awful looking that seagulls won’t even fly over it anymore on their way to the dump.

At least I can still look at my yearbook photos of the original campus.

October 8, 2008 at 3:32 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Mofo from the Hood

Oh yeah, and speaking of dismantling school day memories, I want justice for the demolition of my first school. I’d like to see the old Jefferson Elementary rebuilt to specs including restoration of the slopes which included a dramatic ascent into the main entrance.

October 8, 2008 at 2:50 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


“That campus is so awful lookin that seagulls won’t even fly over it”. 

My nomination for Post of the Week!  I’m parking my car at Wilson from now on.

October 8, 2008 at 3:43 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Potentially Related Articles