Exit133 is about Tacoma

Old City Hall is for Artists?

It’s been nearly a year since we’ve talked about Old City Hall – the iconic building across the street from Suite133 that we stare at nearly every single day. The beautiful brick. The amazing clock-tower …

Dan Voelpel’s article today replays the last couple years of (non) development at Old City Hall and offers us a glimpse into its potential future. What’s the plan? According to the developers, they’re looking for artists, artisans, and urban “pioneers” in need of inexpensive studio space. Rents are expected to be $14 to $18 per square foot per year. There’s also the empty restaurant … interested?

Link to The News Tribune

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Thorax O'Tool

The only thing I want to know is what are the internal dimensions of the elevators.

Something I’m currently designing requires a minimum of 88” H x 34” D x 80” W

If I’m looking for some studio space, the ability to get something out is paramount!

I don’t know how feasible this kind of business model is, but cheap space is <span class=“caps”>EXACTLY</span> what the city needs if we want art to have any chance at all.

Again, maybe the f-ed up economy isn’t all bad. Sometimes the best art comes out of adversity…

April 29, 2009 at 11:28 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Did any of these ever turn into condos? Wasn’t that the plan. I thought I was some photos and they looked really cool. But perhaps that never happened? Anyone know?

April 29, 2009 at 11:58 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Boe

In the City of Tacoma’s Update to the ‘Downtown Element’ of the Comprehensive Plan: “Identify an existing under utilized structure or property or new building site within

the Brewery District, and work to establish a Creative Arts Complex to serve as a growth stimulus for the City’s creative businesses and as a cultural attraction for residents and

visitors.”  So Old City Hall may be at the opposite end of Pac. Ave. – but it is a natural for such an ‘arts incubator.’  Maybe the City could sign for a federal loan?  And I’ll check on the elevator dimensions for T O’T.

April 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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altered Chords

reenerb: condos never happened.  There was an issue with 1 or 2 current tennants that had a lease and did not want to leave.  Condo market softness may have been a factor too.

April 29, 2009 at 2:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Boe

Two elevators – only one operating.  Hoistway door is 36” wide x 84” high.  Inside cab is 52” wide x 50” deep clear dimensions.  Non-operating elevator appears to be newer vintage and has a 42” wide x 84” high hoistway door.  If you go for a walkabout – strongly recommend a breathing apparatus.  Looks to be prime art loft space on the Commerce Level – thus not requiring elevator access.

Link to City Comprehensive Plan is at: cms.cityoftacoma.org…

April 29, 2009 at 2:07 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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crenshaw sepulveda

“market softness” is that real estate talk for no one will touch them with a ten foot pole?

April 29, 2009 at 3:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

hmmmm…. 36 × 84 door and 52 × 50 car. Good for people, not good for my project. Is there by chance a freight elevator?

But what on earth could be in there that you’d need <span class=“caps”>SCBA</span> for a walkaround? Mold? Water damage?

April 30, 2009 at 12:03 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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So, it sounds like the owner wants to offer up the interior space to artistic types who would have to live elsewhere, because conversion to residential use would be too expensive. I think it would be wonderful if artists could have the luxury of living where they work, but it sounds like this won’t be an option here. I’m not sure if your typically starving artist will actually be able to afford the lease rates. After all, you’d be paying close to the same rate for Class A or Class B office space in downtown Tacoma. A relatively small four hundred foot studio space would cost about 500 a month, in addition to the rent you’d pay elsewhere. However, the building could also become like the Middle Floor Merchants and offer multiple small spaces that could double as retail for the artists.

April 30, 2009 at 5:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Boe

Just imagine if the City of Tacoma was developing the Urban Waters Project in this building? Now that would really be green by re-using a historic building, convenient to the bLINK connection to <span class=“caps”>UWT</span>, views to Commencement Bay, walking access to the Foss, in a building at the gateway to Downtown (and is used in all the Economic Development photos of Tacoma), would make the revitalization of the Elks more attractive, and adds additional density to the downtown core, and probably could be done for 1/2 the cost ($360/sf instead of $725/sf). 

And as for the <span class=“caps”>SCBA</span> alert – there appears to be a fine dust of small particulate all over the upper three floors.

April 30, 2009 at 6:55 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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This is way cool.  I hope that average people can walk through it when it’s filled with art and artists.  Like, maybe roped off into portions with walkways? 

It could serve to be a real attraction.

April 30, 2009 at 7:46 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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…..Rents are expected to be $14 to $18 per square foot per year……ex-squeeze me while …I …ignore This flabby trial balloon also.

Turning Old Bldgs. Into Artists Lofts That Artists Can Afford will never ever happen. I’ve been looking for this for about 15-ish years here…ha ha ha ha.

So, I work in a space, any space, usually a “spare bedroom” or I rent a shop in downtown for 2000. a month and find others to share the rent, so I can have foot traffic and the kind of space I need for my “art”.

Before I became Your Official Weirdo Gadfly, I was a contractor for decades…by being smart and re-using materials and avoiding granite countertops, you can make an artist live-in workspace that is affordable to um, artists before they become Chihuly. You just have to think like a starving artist instead of a capitalist.

April 30, 2009 at 8:31 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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tom waits

“middle floor merchants.”

<span class=“caps”>NOOOOO</span>!  god, everything is cyclical.  when the building was gutted in the 1970s of its historic office interior, it was converted to an internal mall.  that never worked.

i know we all have high hopes for some of our grandest and (sadly) most under utilized structures in the city (Elks, Winthrop, Old City Hall – not doing that well, are we?), but i would hope we keep some high expectations up for this building, which is another architectural masterpiece of the region.

April 30, 2009 at 8:58 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Andrew R Campbell

I’m really hopeful that this might turn into something viable. I still have a concern that when the market returns and there’s once again demand for high end historic condos, the reduced-rate artists space will get the boot…

I would encourage anyone interested in this to seriously consider coming together and pushing for it, it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come often. The owner of a building is actually <span class=“caps”>HOPING</span> for reduced-rate artist space… that’s normally a huge point of contention when it comes time to talk price.

I’ve been in touch with both George Webb and David Morton of the Stratford Co and they’re very approachable and more than willing to discuss this. I had been hoping for the last few months to assemble some higher-end studio space (for photographers specifically) and when this came along, it seemed like a great starting shot. So I continue to investigate the possibility… If anyone is interested in this, I’m working hard to assess its potential and to decide whether investing in this might be worth it. I really believe that this would be an excellent and humble beginning and would serve as a great opportunity to bring a number of Tacoma artists together. Safety isn’t the only thing in numbers…

April 30, 2009 at 10:20 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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daniel blue

Without live/work potential this really isnt that attractive.  In order to invest the sheer <span class=“caps”>TIME</span> it takes to become a marketable artist, one must dedicate one’s self to one’s work.  This means working for no money.  The sorts of artists that have enough money to pay both their housing costs and are selling enough work to pay an Extra rent for “studio” space have been in the game long enough to have combined the live/work scenario and are prob set up in some awesome detached garage type house in old town. (re: lynn denino)

you are asking an artist to have their “affordable” studio in proximity to a place that has no “affordable” housing nearby, meaning you are looking for an artist with a car…meaning they need to park, ect. 

without the perks of next door retail, foot traffic or street level window space, the only attractive thing about this building is the history and the nostalgia.  if thats all it took to get “artist types” to move in, then the city would be full of em’.

April 30, 2009 at 1:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

Just imagine it!  Artists all working together and at the end of the day going skiing + skydiving at the Kalakala amusement park. 

…to dream the impossible dream…  la la la la how does that song go?

April 30, 2009 at 4:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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crenshaw sepulveda

Clearly the owners of the building are looking for a revenue stream.  It has sat mostly vacant for a long time.  Couple that with all the money they put into fancy renderings of condo space and then office space, I’m sure the owners are hurting.  Personally I don’t think this will help keep the building out of foreclosure.  Looking for artists to renovate their own spaces at absurd rental rates will not get many takers.  Maybe when it goes into foreclosure the McMenamins people can pick it up for a song and we’ll have an anchor for that end of downtown.

April 30, 2009 at 5:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Evan Tucker

there is some superb performance space in this building and the owners are friendly and willing to rent cheaply. Watch for a production of a new local play in the Commerce St. Galleria space this upcoming November…

April 30, 2009 at 10:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

The building certainly needs live/work spaces as well as some work-only spaces for those who want them.

I think $1-$3 per foot would be far more affordable for most artists. But as always, Tacoma and her businesses aren’t truly serious about catering to the arts.

So while this thing sits there empty, we need to find a way inside. We could totally throw a lightswitch rave! Who’s in?

April 30, 2009 at 11:00 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Mofo from the Hood

Every time you look at this building, ask yourself this:

Which generation of Tacoman’s is more sophisticated?

The two generations that built Old City Hall and kept it a viable part of Tacoma.

The past two generations who just can’t figure out what to do with this building.

May 2, 2009 at 9:36 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

When I look at the Tacoma of my great-grandma’s day versus the Tacoma of my day, I think the answer to Mofo’s question is obvious.

May 3, 2009 at 11:15 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Anyone know if this building has been seismically upgraded to meet today’s standards for higher occupancy?

May 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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