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New Transit-Oriented Development Could Be Coming to 11th & MLK
It's been a while since we've had anything to report related to the conspicuously vacant lots at 11th and MLK in the Hilltop, but now we see a sign of things stirring. Then, at its meeting this week, the Tacoma City Council set the date for a public hearing related to the property.
The hearing is just on a request for vacation of the south 200 feet of the alley running through the lot, parallel to MLK, but it suggests that there's something in the works. A little further digging turned up a couple of mentions of the project in committee meetings last month.
The lots were originally cleared to make way for a a multi-story, mixed-use, mixed-income development at the corner of 11th and MLK. Those plans got derailed by the economic downturn, and subsequent events led to the big vacant lot there being owned by the State Department of Commerce. Last we heard, Commerce was looking for a buyer who could turn the under-utilized space into a contributing part of the Hilltop.
Now, with plans for extending the Link to the Hilltop moving forward, those derailed plans are back on track (oh come on, how could we pass that one up?). In presentations last month City staff mentioned plans from a new developer for a new transit-oriented development on the lot. That lot is conveniently located on a block that will be home to one of the half dozen stops planned for the new Link line. It sounds like the Commerce department has a purchase contract with a new developer, who is now working with the original architectural firm on early design work.
Mentions were made of 200 market-rate apartments above street level retail space and parking. Work is also being done to determine whether office space would pencil out as a part of the project. A percentage of those 200 units could end up being furnished student housing - targeted, we assume, at UWT students down the hill, who will someday be able to ride that new Link line up to Hilltop, and possibly in the much longer-term to TCC students at the other end of a possible next phase that could take the Link straight up 19th.
The project would likely be done in two phases - first the lot on MLK would go up, then the second half along J Street would follow. That second phase would likely be just residential. The timeline at this point has construction beginning on the first phase in 2017, with an opening date for occupancy sometime in 2019.
That's all we heard for details of the project at this point. We hope to learn a little more with the scheduled public hearing on vacating the existing alley. That vacation was previously considered as part of the original project back in 2008, but was suspended until now. If you have opinions on that small element of the project, that hearing by the Hearing Examiner is scheduled for February 18 at 9 a.m.
If you have opinions on the much more interesting question of what you hope to see in plans for the new development, we'll take them here anytime.
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