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City of Tacoma to Buy Old City Hall?

The City of Tacoma could soon be the proud owner (once again) of the historic Old City Hall property.

That's if a resolution on next week's city council meeting is adopted.

Completed in 1893, the five-story building at 625 Commerce served as the seat of City of Tacoma government for 66 years. In 1974 it was renovated for commercial use, then in 2005 sold to Old City Hall LLC to be converted to condos... we've seen how well that worked out... and it has sat empty for several years now.

The building has been deteriorating, and the Historic Preservation office is concerned about its condition, as it has been subject to neglect, flooding, and other damage. In 2013 the City served the current property owners with a Dangerous Building Complaint that included multiple violations. Since then a few repairs have been made, including the replacement of a portion of the roof, but issues remain, and time and weather continue to wear on the grand old building.

It appears that the City has given up waiting on the property owners to take the needed preservation actions, and is now looking at stepping in to do the work itself. The resolution on next week's agenda would allow the City to take control of preserving the iconic structure.

Staff recommends Council authorize the acquisition of the property to protect its interest in the preservation of Old City Hall, a historic landmark, protection of the City's investment in addressing building deterioration through its code enforcement actions and managing the ultimate re-use of the building in a manner that will further the City's economic development goals. 

The price listed is $4.2 million. The City would cover the cost out of its Economic Development Special Revenue Fund.

If the purchase goes ahead, the City would do the needed repairs to put a halt to deterioration, and preserve historic elements of the building. Going forward, the building would be "made available for private development consistent with the goals for downtown development and the historic district."

The purchase of Old City Hall requires city council approval - should they do it?


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