Pierce County Council Approves Lincoln District General Services Building Plan

Last night the Pierce County Council voted to move forward with plans to consolidate many of its operations in a centralized general services building on the site of the former Puget Sound Hospital in the Lincoln District in Tacoma.

According to the County and its independent consultants, the move will save tax payer dollars while also increasing convenience for the public by housing multiple offices and departments under one roof. Savings come on rent currently paid at 14 separate locations and from staffing efficiencies. 

"This business plan will save taxpayers millions of dollars in leases, staffing and maintenance costs," said Councilmember Talbert, who represents the area in Tacoma’s South End that will house the new campus. "We have carefully analyzed current and future costs, asset values, risk, and more. An independent consultant verified our staff savings through consolidation. This pencils out in the taxpayers' interest."

The County Council vote was close - 4 to 3 - with council members Rick Talbert (District 5), Connie Ladenburg (District 4), Derek Young (District 7), and Joyce McDonald (District 2) voting for the plan, while Dan Roach (District 1), Doug Richardson (District 6), and Jim McCune (District 3) voted against. Council Chair Roach explained his dissenting vote as coming from concerns over the reliance on cutting staff to make the savings pencil out.

The 330,000 square-foot building, which will house 1,300 employees, now moves forward with a maximum price tag negotiated by the County of just under $127 million. Councilmember Ladenburg is quoted saying "No taxes will be raised to pay for this." 

Construction is expected to begin next month, with occupancy forecast for fall 2016.

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We’ve got to have the most un-progressive dem’s in all of Western Washington. They’ve never seen a construction project or job they didn’t like. Way to stick together Democrats! This project is bad news for downtown Tacoma, bad news for urban planning in Tacoma and regional planning in Pierce County, bad news for historic preservation, and bad news for transit and traffic. But hey, it’s better than nothing for the Lincoln District so it must be good. Barf in mouth.

I’m sure the Master Builders Association will be opening their checkbook for all the “yes” votes.  Yay, the system works!

(FYI, there is a whole lot of sarcasm/cynicism in this comment, but the disappointment is sincere.)

February 18, 2015 at 10:31 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I couldn’t be more disappointed in Derek Young.  I voted for him because a big part of his platform was about paying attention to urban planning and design.  Not even a month after taking office, he was shlepping this 1950’s campus project.  Lesson learned.
In the end, I hope they name this building after Pat McCarthy so future generations can know who to blame when they drive by this monstrosity and ask aloud “what the fuck?”

February 18, 2015 at 11:57 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Love it or hate it, it’s a done deal. The real question now is….. who’s in? Who’s going to stand up and help the Lincoln District get the most out of this project? Bring your ideas and get ready to roll up your sleeves…. the Year of Ram is mean rebirth for one of Tacoma’s most diverse neighborhoods.

February 18, 2015 at 4:23 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Start calling all the corporate headquarters for drive through restaurants! Let’s rev up the engine of economic development in Tacoma and bring those high-paying fast food jobs to the Lincoln District!

February 18, 2015 at 4:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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This isn’t some stupid internet game. This a real project, with real money, in a real neighborhood. So you think you got game? Know a little about urban planning? Transit planning? Public safety? Here’s your chance. I understand the political stuff very well, I respect different factions fighting for resources because it’s what makes a city tough. Somehow the L.D. won this project… who’s a big enough person to help us with what comes next?

February 18, 2015 at 5:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I appreciate your optimism and sincerity Terry. Unfortunately, this is a can of worms and not something that can be properly discussed in a comment section. Hopefully it does get talked about (how to make this project better), now that it’s a “done deal”.  Like the Seahawks loss, I’m still not quite over the grieving period!

Getting the employees and patrons of the new County Admin campus out of their cars, to become part of the Lincoln District community and patronize local and locally owned businesses is going to be a significant challenge. That’s what makes “corporate campus” style developments so challenging from an urban design standpoint. Like insular college campuses, the nature of their built environment does not promote connection to the host community. You drive in (with the AC on), park in the garage, go into the building, do your business and leave.

I’ve got nothing but love for the LD and I frequent the restaurants and businesses there. I’m Tacoma, born and raised, and love all our neighborhoods. They’re what make this city great. But this Admin Building is no “gift to the community” there. It’s been pitched as that, but I think “freeway access” will be the most talked about amenity, if you catch my drift.

I don’t think folks in the Edison (South Tacoma Way area) neighborhood think back on how the Tacoma Mall was a boon to their ‘hood. Auto-centric malls and headquarters don’t make the surrounding communities better, they contribute to their failure. But I’ll try to start being more optimistic about this, when I’m done grieving about what a loss this is for Tacoma.

February 18, 2015 at 5:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Susanne Marten

Most definitely the auto traffic is a major concern. Our south end neighborhoods are already hosting the traffic to and from the Sound Transit centers and the I-5 north and south “drive-around” City Center. It is now the responsibility of the County and City to buck up and facilitate ground-up neighborhood planning. But in the meantime, I challenge our biking community to rally for north and south dedicated tracks and a bicycle depot at the “corporate campus”.

February 23, 2015 at 8:11 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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The building site is located a block off the freeway on Pacific Avenue.  There will be minimal impact on neighborhood traffic.

February 23, 2015 at 11:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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The good news is I think the cycling part of this is already being worked on. The new connector trail between G st and Yakima is nice and well lit and there is more to come. It’s a great location to ride to!

As far as the County and City helping out with some sort of master plan, don’t hold your breath. Read this… http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/02/22/3651137/tacoma-pierce-county-need-to-recommit.html?sp=/99/447/  I’m not sure Thoms even knows where the Lincoln District is, We have work to do here.

February 23, 2015 at 5:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thoms has trouble knowing what planet he is on

February 23, 2015 at 7:18 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Bill Johnston

You can tell it is a Seattle firm’s design.  Same ugly crap they have turned the Seattle down town into while ripping down the great old buildings.

February 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Only quite a bit worse than anything I’ve seen built in downtown Seattle for awhile.  I sympathize with the both the “this should have been downtown” and the “Lincoln could use the development” factions, but mostly I’m worried that this thing is so ugly, like a neo-Soviet fortress.  Maybe the design can still be tweaked and lightened up?

February 19, 2015 at 4:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Lincoln Resident

Griveing a loss for Tacoma…
  You do understand that the Lincoln District is located in Tacoma?

Which Tacoma do you live in?

February 18, 2015 at 7:17 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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The immediate benefit of this project is that one of the spookiest sections of Pacific Avenue will be razed. Then in a matter of months, a vibrant public services building will provide the citizens of Pierce County with both a center of opportunity for employment, and for services vital to regenerating and sustaining the local community and beyond.

If just that promise is achieved, if just those expectations are met, then the new “less is more” GS building should satisfy the most cynical social democrats this side of the Pierce Transit bus barn.

February 18, 2015 at 11:11 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I suspect that James, Jesse, Terry and Bill are all downtown all of the time.  For going on a third decade, ever since Visualize Tacoma - reesources have been denied and revenues sucked out of every other part of the City of Tacoma and shoveled into that never ended money pit known as the Downtown Redevelopment Zone.  At the time these scandalous and disgraceful policies and practices were first being debated I ask a simple question regarding the claims being made:  How many years are we talking about “deferring maintenance” and giving the rest of the City residents short shrift before the Downtown Redevelopment Zone is no longer on the dole?  i.e. how long will it be before the Downtown Redevelopment Zone becomes an area of the City in which sufficient revenue is generated for the Downtown Redevelopment Zone to pay it’s own way.  I might also point out the FACT (I attended the public outreach sessions) that proponents were promising that “before we know it” the Downtown Redevelopment Zone will generate enough new revenue to make up for any increased deterioration that is caused by deferring maintenance on our existing infrastructure.  With interest!

I could not get a straight answer out of them so I suggested: Are we talking about ten-years?  The answer was: Well, I would not want to put a specific length of time on it.  So I suggested it may be twenty-years before this “investment” begins to pay off and the hue and cry went up:  Oh no, the Downtown Redevelopment Zone will be a net contributor to City REVENUES long before twenty-years has passed. 

The simple fact of the matter is this one District is a parasite on the City as a whole.  It is a malignant parasitic drain on resources and is programmed by the current City Administration to remain so for an indefinite length of time, forever if you actually talk to people who have knowledge of the goings on at City Hall.

So as for all you Downtown Redevelopment Zone promoters, otherwise known as parasites.  Choke on it.  The County does not exist as a life support support system for your pathetic miserable failure of a social experiment that still cannot produce enough revenue to support itself, much less contribute to the community at large even after two plus decades of being the beneficiary of the lion’s share of revenues and community resources.  For Christ’s sake the freeloaders who have decided to take up residence in their tax-abated condo dwelling units are mooching off the remainder of the City’s residents for practically everything they receive by way of government services.  Go saok your head.

February 19, 2015 at 9:16 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Just so we’re clear, much of the critique of the current plan isn’t about “which neighborhood the building should be located”. It’s quaint to think that this is just about sibling rivalries between neighborhoods. It’s not. The nature of the location drives the design and thereby the human behavior. You put a huge employment center out of the path of convenient commuter transit, in a location without amenities, collaborating businesses and housing density in walking distance, provide an abundance of free parking, and what do you get? Lots of cars on the road…. and the corporate business parks that they’re tearing down in the rest of the country to build mixed use centers.

February 19, 2015 at 9:49 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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February 19, 2015 at 11:56 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I don’t live in east Pierce County or across the Narrows Bridge or south of Ft Lewis, I live right smack dab in the middle of the North End and if I have business to transact or let’s say jury duty (something that may not concern you, depending on what your status as a convicted felon is).

I applaud the County for choosing a site that does “provide an abundance of free parking.”  I work full time and have a home to keep up and a family to spend time with and all of those COME FIRST.  If they don’t in your world then that is your loss.  That building is there to SERVE THE RESIDENTS OF THE COUNTY, all the residents of the County.  The building is not there to serve the wishes of people who have no respect for the time and convenience of the residents of Pierce County, particularly HARD WORKING parents who have other priorities than sitting around in a three-ring circle jerk slobbering about saving the earth from the IMAGINARY threat of Anthropogenic Catastrophic Global Warming.

February 19, 2015 at 12:09 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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This keeps getting labeled as not being Transit friendly and that simply is not true. It is currently served by 5 transit lines, including the #1, the most frequent in Pierce Transit network. Stopping by the front door over 100 times a day. In total there are over 200 stops per day in the area and 2/3 of the PT network are within 1 connection. Pierce Transit is a flexible company that can adjust to changing needs and patterns.
Be even cooler if this sparks the rumored BRT on Pacific ave.

The current building is only served by 3 bus lines. Approx 5% of current PC employees use some form of CTR indicating the current transit options do not support CTR goals. Given the more direct transit access, bikeability advantages and other efficency of combining offices, the new location could push towards 20% CTR.

The neighborhood has above average housing density and is loaded with amenaties like a grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, dry cleaners, auto parts and over 20 restaurants with a wide variety of offerings. Even a pair of Tattoo Shops for those mid-aftenoon tatoo needs.

This site has long been an employment center especially when it was a fully operational hospital. Over the last several years 750+ jobs have been taken out of this area. The area easily has the carrying capisity for 1000 jobs to return to the area.

February 21, 2015 at 2:45 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Yeah, all of this is true! And we haven’t even talked about adding transit and bike options. This is going to be a cool project and your friends in the Lincoln District would like your help, even if you live somewhere else. Now is the time for all the cool kids to hop on the Lincoln Love Train. So if you think you know something about urban planning, transit, public safety or successful neighborhood building, here’s you chance. Don’t be shy!

February 21, 2015 at 3:53 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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The $17M parking lot makes this project inherently transit unfriendly.  If County employees want to drive to work they can, but why should tax payers have to pay for their parking spot?  Free parking lots aren’t free, tax payers are just subsidizing Pierce County employees automobile addiction.

It’s not bicycle friendly because it is situated at the top of a very steep hill, on a very busy road, making it undesirable for most cyclist’s to want to attempt riding from Downtown.

Plus, even though this site is served by multiple bus routes, the location isn’t central (like the T-Dome district or Downtown Tacoma) therefore it will require most people who might use transit to transfer, which costs time and discourages transit ridership.

February 22, 2015 at 12:21 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I don’t like to make a habit of endlessly fighting on the internet, but I have to stick up for the Lincoln District. I’ve lived *car free* for much of my life. I even lived *car free* in the LD for 4 years. I use transit and I’ve rode my bike, oh, way over 100,000 miles commuting. You are talking to a true believer.

There are bike lanes, low traffic streets and even a bike path that serve the New GS building site directly. Ask the guys at 2nd Cycle or the Tacoma Wheelmen. It’s a great place to ride to. The Transit connections are great as well, Marty pointed that out already.

And here’s the real reason we need this project in the LD. Social Justice. Please understand that the neighborhoods South of the Freeway have paid and paid for Downtown and North End projects for years, and have seen little return on our investments (Salishan being the exception). The old Mountain View Hospital is currently poisoning the neighborhoods around it with drugs, homelessness and crime. The County has to be a good neighbor and clean it up.

The Lincoln District was build around the jobs form the hospital, in the 1920s. Since the jobs went away, the neighborhood isn’t doing so well. We need those jobs back…. and we’d love your help with this project! Unlike a big Downtown project like the LINK, your voice will be heard here. Come be part of the change.

February 22, 2015 at 7:32 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Social justice?  Is that a reason? 
Just because you can’t see tangible monetary items doesn’t mean government money isn’t being spent there.  I get medical data via my job and that area has a boatload of Medicaid.  What other social services come with being government dependent?

February 22, 2015 at 8:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Ah, look at this way.  If we cut Tacoma in half at Nalley Valley, and make 2 Tacomas, North and South, which one has more local tax money? South Tacoma has sales taxes from the Mall, Costco and the South Tacoma Way car lots. North Tacoma gets the Pt. Ruston clean up bill and a Downtown that’s near 50% property tax exempt.

Social justice means sharing. It’s so easy for some progressives in Downtown and the North End to plan a bike and transit zone where all the jobs and light rail and government projects are located in the North End/Water Front/Downtown core ( add Hilltop Gentrification to this). The problem is that much of our wonderful City is South of the freeway. We deserve this. You’re been invited to help the Lincoln District make this work.
There are so many projects in this town, the Flower on the Dome, saving Old City Hall, fixing Pt. Ruston. I support other neighborhoods struggles and dreams. Why can’t Downtown just stop hating and come on board with the Lincoln District?

February 22, 2015 at 9:55 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I asked Councilman Lonergan if a map could be produced showing Tacoma residents that there has been geographical equity in programming City revenues and he said he would request such a map.  Or series of maps.  The City GIS Department could absolutely produce a map that shows on a block by block basis how many transportation dollars have been spent on each block for capital improvements over the last two decades. 

The reason this will meet with fierce resistance is because it will show the total inequity that has existed.  Now here is where it gots even more hideous, a map showing where future transportation dollars are being programmed will make it abundantly clear that the powers that be intend to continue to give the bulk of Tacoma’s neighborhoods short shrift for the foreseeable future. 

This is just wrong.

February 22, 2015 at 1:10 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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This request was made at the Fern Hill Prop 1 dog and pony show.  And as for Prop 1 it was abundantly clear that the proponents had every intention of spending the bulk of that money funding more downtown capital projects with it and precious little of it restoring and maintaining our existing pavement infrastructure.

February 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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So the residents in that District should be more than happy because…. Well because of what exactly? 

Medicaid is federal and State money.  I live in the north end, in what would be considered an affluent neighborhood and I too am sick and tired of the City shafting the residents of these neighborhoods.  The City of Tacoma does NOTHING for these neighborhoods and Districts except throw them a bone off of the prime rib they are giving to the downtown and Stadium Districts.  As I lauded to earlier, these people do not exist as a “funding mechanism” or the favored few and they have every right to say enough is enough and we are simply not going to take any more of this abuse.

February 22, 2015 at 1:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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People on Medicaid are a government funding mechanism?  Now I’ve heard everything.

February 23, 2015 at 11:45 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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People who live in the Lincoln District certainly do not deserve the attitude of a condescending punk like you, that is for sure.

And you bet your ass the residents of the Lincoln District are looked at as a “funding mechanism” to source additional revenues from to continue to fund that failed social experiment known as the Downtown Redevelopment Zone.  I studied the Prop 1 proposal and attended practically all of the Prop 1 dog and pony shows and what I was able to discern was that precious little of the “new revenues” would have found their way to existing pavement restoration and preservation.  The powers that be were trying to hoodwink the public, particularly that portion of the public that is fed the hell up with having the infrastructure in neighborhoods and whole Districts deteriorate whole the revenues to fund maintenance and preservation have been stripped form each and every City maintenance shop and diverted and used fund this pipe dream. 

Residents in the Lincoln District by gasoline, they also are not living in tax abated condos and freeloading off the rest of the citizenry for services and amenities they pay nothing to support. 

This damnable Downtown Redevelopment Zone cluster f**k, came straight out of a campaign, “Visualize Tacoma” and in that Visualize Tacoma series of dog and pony shows there were a lot of preposterous claims being made.  One of the claims went like this:  If we defer maintenance on our existing infrastructure and use the “savings” to leverage State, federal and other monies and pour them into downtown Tacoma, before long new residents and businesses will come flocking and herding in and before long these new residents and businesses will be providing Tacoma with enough in new tax revenue that it will more than make up for any increased deterioration caused by deferring maintenance fo ra short while. 

I, and others, tried mightily to get the proponents to qualify “before long.”  Were they talking about, let’s say ten-years?  Were they talking twenty or thirty-years?  They would not be pinned down, but scoffed at the suggestion that it would be twenty or thirty years before there was any “return on investment.” 

Guess what smart guy?  It is rapidly closing on three decades since this nonsense began and the point at which the Downtown Redevelopment Zone will begin to even pay it’s own way, much less pay anything back is still over the horizon.

What this whole mess has now morphed into is what is a classic textbook example of politicians spending taxpayer monies on project that will never provide a positive return on investment.  It is test book example of a Sunk Cost Fallacy or what is known a the Concord Fallacy.

February 23, 2015 at 3:26 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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So you’re saying that the downtown could not support itself, tax and revenue wise, if it were cut off from the outlying business districts.  You’re saying that it depends on revenues from outlying areas, even ones where there’s a high rate of poverty (enough to qualify for Medicaid anyways) for most of the dollars spent because it can’t generate enough on it’s own.  Is that what you’re saying?  Really?

It must be a conspiracy… (ALF made me say that)

February 23, 2015 at 8:48 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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What I am saying, for the reading comprehension impaired, is that City tax revenues have been flowing INTO the downtown redevelopment zone, are today flowing into that zone and are programmed to keep flowing in that direction with no end of that dynamic in sight.  This is in DIRECT CONTRADICTIONto what was promised when this whole scheme was hatched and it is not what has been promised each time the subject is before the Council looking for additional funding.  It is simply a giant drain on the Comunity at large and is a classic example of the Concord Fallacy in action at this juncture.

February 23, 2015 at 9:10 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Susanne Marten

Terry: Where does one come to be part of the neighborhood planning process?

February 24, 2015 at 8:59 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Great question! https://www.facebook.com/groups/friendsoflincoln/

Hope to talk with you soon.

February 24, 2015 at 4:16 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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The building is to SERVE THE RESIDENTS IF THE COUNTY.  All of the residents of Pierce County, got that?  It should be sited so as to be convenient for residents to access the building as possible. 

This location is absolutely transit friendly.  It is well within walking distance from the Sounder Station and there is a bus connecting it to the Sounder and light rail and regional express busses that are located there.  Also there is a program called VanShare, wherein KCMetro utilizes it’s fleet of “retired” Van Pool vehicles to provide “last mile” connections between transit and work sites.  Pierce Transit may have this as well, and if it does not it could if it wanted to. 

What this is all about is the Downtown redevelopment zone is simply not doing what the Visualize Tacoma cabal promised it would.  The rest of the City has gone without and our infrastructure has been left to deteriorate in order to fund this fiasco and private business and residents are not flocking and herding in to that District.  In fact those who are have had to be bribed to locate there by letting them mooch off the rest of the citizenry for their local governmental services. They have been given tax abatements and are freeloaders.

February 22, 2015 at 7:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Two transients, window shopping in downtown Tacoma, approached each other midblock. The first transient said, “Do you know the difference between capitalism and socialism?”

The second transient said, “Let’s hear it.”

“Well, in a capitalist economic system, man exploits man.”

The second transient shook his head and said, “Ah, but in a socialist system it’s vice versa.”

February 23, 2015 at 6:46 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I am in downtown Tacoma all the time.  I live and work here.  There is no way you could cram this building into the downtown core without causing serious parking and commuting problems.  We already have more than our fair share of social service buildings and we can’t turn a corner without confronting the back end of a bus.  We had a net loss of parking spots from the “improvements”.

There are no amenities in the Lincoln block where this will county services building because the hospital closed and nothing has been done with that patch in a while.  Show me where the amenities are for the current County Annex hodgepodge of ugly buildings.  Historic building???  The hospital is a piece of crap.  There is nothing architecturally appealing about it. 

The main reason there are empty buildings in this area is because of the greedy absentee owners as in Seattle and Gig Harbor.  They want square footage rates that are insane for the area and they deduct their “loss” year after year from their taxes.  There is no incentive to fill the spaces.  Increase their property tax rates on the vacant buildings and we will see an increase in retail shops/amenities or sales.

It’s a done deal and you will see improvements in this part of the Lincoln district of Tacoma.  So what if it is not downtown?  ALL of Tacoma needs improvement.  It could have been planned for Puyallup!

March 31, 2015 at 4:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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“The main reason there are empty buildings in this area is because of the greedy absentee owners as in Seattle and Gig Harbor.’

Of course it is and it has nothing to do with the leadership that Tacoma voters keep electing.  Please!

April 1, 2015 at 6:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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