South Downtown Subarea Action Items

The potential large scale build-out for the South Downtown Subarea.

At Tuesday’s study session, the Tacoma City Council received an update from Planning and Development Services on the progress of the South Downtown Subarea Plan and EIS. 

If you’ve been following the conversation at all, you know that the subarea planning and EIS processes are intended to set the table for development in downtown Tacoma. Subarea planning is a requirement under Vision 2040, but if they get it right, it will also streamline permitting processes, paving the way for development as the economy gets back on track. The completed plan and EIS will also help the City with eligibility for federal, state, and regional transportation and other funding.

The process has produced a draft of the plan, taking into account public comment and stakeholder input. On Tuesday, the Council heard about some action items specific to the south downtown subarea.

  1. Align downtown planning to further Vision 2040 with a focus on Downtown Mixed-Use (DMU) zoning
  2. Approve the University of Washington Tacoma’s Campus Master Plan and add regulatory flexibility for the University of Washington Tacoma
  3. Advance a $40 million initiative to rebuild the Brewery District Streets to complete street standards
  4. Rebuild Puyallup Avenue as a catalyst for transit-oriented residential and mixed-use development
  5. Fully participate in the design of the new Amtrak Station
  6. Accelerate Sound Transit’s Freighthouse Square access improvements
  7. Creation of a “Quiet Zone” for trains in the Dome District
  8. Full funding for the Prairie Line Trail and Thea Foss Esplanade
  9. Increase the South Downtown area’s capacity to receive Transfer of Development Rights by restructuring the density bonus palette
  10. Add preservation of affordable housing to the list of Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) sending sites
  11. Address affordable housing objectives recommended by the City’s Affordable Housing Planning Advisory Group and Puget Sound Regional Council
  12. Expand the market-based approach to off-street parking to all of South Downtown
  13. Allow flexibility in the application of South Downtown design standards
  14. Program utility and street upgrades to compliment private investment

We will probably see 15 or 16 new code amendments to go along with this plan, which will go before City Council for approval by year-end. 

So these are the action items. What do you like? Anything missing?

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Hillside Resident

As a current south downtown resident, I’m concerned that given the existing and possible increased future development of residential in the subarea, that there isn’t prominent mention of neighborhood amenities such as gardens and parks or community gathering space, and pedestrian access and safety, all of which are vital to an attractive and livable residential community (attractive in both a market interest/value and literal esthetic sense).

June 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I’d like to see a lot of reconstruction of streets in the entire downtown.  The 30 different types of streetlights, roads without sidewalks, etc. really hurt Tacoma. 
So when is the $40m reconstruction slated to kick off?

June 27, 2013 at 3:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Where to start?
No mention of historic preservation or goals for adaptively reusing existing buildings in an area where most of the City’s best industrial landmarks are located-Nisqually Power Plant, Union Station/Depot district, old 99 corridor.
The sidewalkless roadways between building in the brewery district offer a versatile, programable network of open spaces between buildings and many of the buildings open onto it with roll up door openings, loading docks and oversized doors and windows. Why adopt hackneyed complete street design standards that don’t fit and will introduce sidewalks, curbs, light standards and street furniture? Keep the lighting on the buildings and save the paved open space. Let the residents live where they work and design their own neighborhood with gardens on window sills, streetball games and movable everything.
Skip the TDR slight of hand and extend the conservation district all the way to I-5 then increase the Special Valuation Historic Building incentive to 25% to encourage early private investment in the existing buildings Instead of Urban Renewal style urban planning that assumes scraped ground for its most ambitious actions, lets plan for immediate steps that build on existing, underused buildings, lots and open spaces.
So why are there no strong sustainability actions and no standards for energy conservation and efficiency? And no innovative transportation ideas-bike streets, all electric car share zones.
Strengthen the presence of active traditional waterfront industries like Martinac instead of ceding shoreline to recreational boat storage and moorage.
Still thinking

June 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Well said! (with one exception… I’m for more recreation accessibility to Tacoma’s waterways, in balance with the demands of working waterfronts)

The X districts have been pretty unsuccessful at stimulating dense urban growth/development. And now talk of more TDR’s? Downtown Tacoma’s greatest assets are its existing infrastructure, buildings and character. More incentives need to be offered for preservation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings, before we open the flood gates for foreign investment in new “bigger-is-better” buildings in an area that has little to no urban housing as it is.

The PLT is the best item on the list. It has all the components that should be major priorities for the City as a whole: preservation, sustainability, livability, transportation, and economic development.

June 28, 2013 at 9:19 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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There is an extensive section in the subarea plan on historic resources, including the ones you mentioned. It is Chapter 6, beginning on page 89. Adaptive re-use is mentioned in Chapter 11.

July 4, 2013 at 9:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tim Smith

Makes me sick with dispair. Just a deepeing and widening of the downtown-centric blackhole for public funds.

5.Fully participate in the design of the new Amtrak Station
    move it to South Tacoma where there is space and wide room for growth and investment - think out to 2040….

6.Accelerate Sound Transit’s Freighthouse Square access improvements

  I guess if we rebuild the area every two years we will eventually, maybe get it right.

6.Accelerate Sound Transit’s Freighthouse Square access improvements

June 28, 2013 at 8:51 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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