Mixing Up Tacoma’s Mixed-Use Centers

​The City of Tacoma is revisiting its plan for its mixed-use centers. We heard the beginning of the discussion at last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

The conversation comes in part out of the impending Comprehensive Plan review that needs to be done by 2015. More pressing for Tacoma’s 17 mixed-use centers, however, is the question of whether they’re helping the City accomplish what it set out to do when it created them. 

Mixed-use centers have been at the heart of City plans for growth and development since it was required by the Growth Management Act to identify growth centers in the 1990s. The goal for 17 MUCs identified in Tacoma’s Comprehensive Plan is to renew and transform those areas into functional, vibrant, sustainable “urban villages” with a compact, complete and connected mix of shops, services, and public spaces. In practical terms this means mixed-use developments, multi-family housing, pedestrian-oriented streets, and a move away from automobile dependent development.

The problem is that it hasn’t necessarily worked. The mixed-use centers, and the plans that center around encouraging their development, were created before the economy took a downturn and developers stopped developing much of anything - especially multi-story projects with limited parking and retail space for which there is little demand.

So the City will be reviewing all of its mixed-use centers, from the (relatively) successful ones like Proctor and 6th and Pine to those that have seen little or no development consistent with what the designation envisions. Through that process it will also be reviewing the hierarchy by which MUCs are divided into downtown, urban, community, and neighborhood subtypes. The City will also take a look at the various tax and other incentives designed to encourage high density development of the sort that would earn the “urban village” name. 

This will be a comprehensive conversation about what it means to be a Mixed-Use Center, and whether all 17 still make sense - whether in the current format, or any format at all. Parts of the code that don’t work will be re-worked or dropped. Unsuccessful MUCs will either see changes or may be dropped from the MUC list.

Having 17 of these centers on a citywide scale may make City officials feel like their attention is spread too thin, but if you live in or near one of these centers, does it feel that way to you? Are these centers of greater importance in the big picture planning of a city or are they most meaningful at the neighborhood level - to the residents and businesses in the little “urban villages?” Or are they important at all?


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Comments

JesseRegistered

I don’t see the “Narrows” area as a viable mixed use center, but if the city concentrated on the other seven “Neighborhood Centers,” that’d be great.  The mall and the Community Centers have all been built out to serve car centric culture as they have a suburban feel (see also; strip malls) to them.  They’ll never be “walkable” unless Tacoma triples it’s population and needs that land to build actual mixed use buildings on those Community Center sites.

Also, with seventeen mixed use centers, commerce is spread awfully thin.  If there’s only a few areas, besides the mall, to walk around and shop, I think those areas will be more able to flourish without the huge population increase needed to support all seventeen.

July 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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tacoma1Registered

Its too early to cross any area off the list yet.  Without having a master transportation plan for Tacoma, we can only guess where the streetcar corridors will be, and we will never know which neighborhood that is currently unwalkable, will become a more livable walkable transit rich neighborhood.

July 23, 2013 at 5:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davieRegistered

I’ll summarize the story:

Liberal dreams meet economic reality.

July 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Sid

Look at the Lincoln Business District, the place is a mess.  What they need to do is start enforcing what is on the books already, but more consistently.  The derelict business owners do what they want.  The drug users see this blight and see it as a welcome sign, hey if these people don’t care, I must be able to do well here and hang out is their attitude and it works.  What gets me is that the city is spending so much money in the brewery district, which lacks breweries and people and forget about the ones which currently have human life inhabiting them and looking like S&*@T because of business owners.  I don’t understand this logic of not caring for the places where people live already and worry about the other parts later.

July 25, 2013 at 8:25 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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John

In the Proctor mixed use center development area, overly large apartment buildings are about to be inflicted upon the neighborhood to the utter dismay of large numbers of current residents. Organized opposition has formed and is growing. The infrastructure will not support the plan. The resulting congestion will fuel a backlash against business and negatively impact the safety of the streets. The overall cheaply built look of already built mixed use apartments around the city will be unwelcome in Proctor too.

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