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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Stephen Battey

That is so fucking exciting.

January 15, 2016 at 3:06 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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This is a great project that will make the business district stronger and even more attractive to young urbanite types.

The pharmacy across the street needs to return too… and with the shake-up in mental health services and the eventual addition of beds (possibly) nearby, there’s an opportunity to talk to the original pharmacy to get it going again.  I hear that they are still stuck in a lease for the building and that’s why nothing different is being done with it… but if there’s a significant number of County/State/City psychiatric beds nearby (including at least some of Western State), with patients needing meds, the contract to bubble-pack or strip-pack their meds might be enough to open this pharmacy back up - that is if they have ALL the business. 

Wow, just think… 806 Western State beds X 10-15 meds each = 8k-10k prescriptions… AND 160 County beds X 10-15 meds each = another 2000 prescriptions… Wow!!  That’s 400 a day just from the gov’t!!  400 a day is an above average number for a retail box pharmacy.  I don’t know how realistic this is but it’d be nice to have that pharmacy back!

January 15, 2016 at 3:16 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tim Smith

This would really pencil out if we lifted the retail sales tax exemption provided for prescription drugs and tax them like we tax medical cannabis.

January 15, 2016 at 7:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I know this is unpopular but if you want to attract money to that area, you’re going to need to change the name of the street.  It’s just how that is.  Every major city well you know…..

January 26, 2016 at 5:44 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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But the name of the street is why the light rail is there. Name a street for MLK and get light rail, it’s simple, worked for Seattle and worked for us :)

February 2, 2016 at 6:59 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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The graphic is minus a few essential details - like paramedics attending to a chronic alcoholic laying passed out on the sidewalk.

January 27, 2016 at 9:51 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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People are talking about the Hilltop like it’s still 1989. That Hilltop is gone.

February 2, 2016 at 7:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Transit-Oriented Development? The assumption is that the real problem with Tacoma is that it needs governmental-oriented money to develop and maintain the city; and there is no form of expediency which should be ruled out.

Where are the community leaders who want to promote family-oriented development? How about stability-oriented development? How about personal responsibility-oriented development?

February 2, 2016 at 9:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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“Where are the community leaders who want to promote family-oriented development? How about stability-oriented development? How about personal responsibility-oriented development?”

You are talking about Tacoma, those considerations will not even register.  The powers that be in Tacoma have induced and coerced The Old Spaghetti Factory into moving into the basement of a parking garage.  They have no understanding of and nothing but contempt for family-oriented, stability-oriented or personal responsibility-oriented anything.

February 3, 2016 at 10:43 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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