Tacoma City Business Preview for the Week of April 5, 2016

Tacoma Town Center

Last fall we wrote about the latest proposal to build a mixed-use development on the 6 acres of City-owned property at South 21st and Fawcett in downtown Tacoma. Last week we saw a sign that that proposal may be moving ahead. The proposed project would include office and retail space, including a grocery store, and residential, including student housing. Plans at this point also include the blocks of Fawcett Avenue between South 21st and 23rd, requiring the City to vacate that right-of-way so the project can be built on it.

A resolution on this week's council meeting consent agenda would set Thursday, May 12, 2016, at 1:30 p.m., as the date for a hearing by the Hearing Examiner on the request to vacate a portion of Fawcett Avenue lying between South 21st and South 23rd Streets, to facilitate mixed-use development. 


Link Money

Planning work continues for the extension of Tacoma's Link light rail system from downtown to the Hilltop via the Stadium district. That work will get $2 million boost this week when the council authorizes the acceptance of a grant for that amount from the Federal Transit Administration. 

The grant is specifically designated for work that would support City goals of maximizing the benefits of the project in terms of facilitating downtown revitalization, increasing transit ridership, and driving transit-oriented development; as well as linking Hilltop residents to new opportunities, and avoiding displacement. To this end, the funds would be used to engage the Hilltop community in planning for the reconstruction and redesign of streets and streetscape improvements in the neighborhood, and in creating new opportunities for local residents and businesses.

The $2 million grand will be accepted by Sound Transit and passed through to the City of Tacoma's Economic Development Grant Fund along with the local match. This week's council meeting consent agenda resolution accepting that grant also authorizes $480,000 in City matching funds, designates the project as a special project of limited duration, and sets general salary classifications and benefits for persons employed on the project.


Lake Cushman Land

Another resolution on this week's consent agenda would accept a donation of 70 acres of property from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. The land in question is located next to Tacoma Power property around the Cushman Hydroelectric Project at Lake Cushman.

The DNR would donate the land through the Trust Land Transfer program, which allows the DNR to transfer state trust lands with limited potential for timber revenue to more appropriate ownership. Through that program the DNR is compensated with funds appropriated by the State legislature, allowing them to turn around and acquire "more productive" land in exchange.

The property would be donated to Tacoma Power, with a deed restriction limiting use to conservation, recreation, and/or open space purposes, including supporting second-growth conifer forest.


Purchase Resolutions

Two purchase resolutions on this week's agenda:

  • $657,720 budgeted from the Municipal Building Acquisition and Operations Fund, for the construction of showers, lockers, and fitness area in the basement of the Tacoma Municipal Building North, replacing the 36-year-old existing facility with a new, ADA compliant, gender-inclusive one.
  • $10,726,340 budgeted from the Transportation Capital Fund to extend reconstruction work on Port of Tacoma Road to include the section from Marshall Avenue to State Route 509 within the City's Heavy Haul Corridor. The existing pavement was in poor to failing condition and needed to be replaced. Funding for the work comes in part from a State grant, in part from Port of Tacoma contributions, as well as from the City's Streets Initiative Fund.


Other Items

At this Tuesday's Study Session the council will hear a wrap up report from staff on the Legislative Session in Olympia. 

A resolution and an ordinance up for a first reading on this week's council meeting agenda would approve and implement rates of pay and compensation for a group of represented City employees, as agree to in a Collective Bargaining Agreement, retroactive to January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2019.


Get Involved

  • Walk Tacoma Kick-Off - This Wednesday, April 6, the 2016 Walk Tacoma series kicks off with a walk and talk on a couple of historic Tacoma schools. The walk starts in Wright Park at noon.
  • UW Tacoma Toxics Clean-Up Open House - UW Tacoma is entering a second phase of work to discover and address the source of groundwater contamination under its footprint. As the university starts this new phase, the public is invited to an open house to learn about and comment on plans.
  • 2016 Daffodil Parade - It's time for this annual Pierce County rite of spring. Bring on the yellow dresses and flowers.

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There’s a whole lot of good stuff happening in Tacoma over the next few years. 
That six acre project is exciting in that it could bring back shopping in downtown in a meaningful way.  Down the hill from it will be Seven Seas Brewery and a proposed (what happened with this?) public market at the old horse barn and warehouses.  Exciting!
After that, you have the continues schools LID, roads funding, Link rail, McMenamins campus, two 24 story towers at the convention center, more Foss developments, more Stadium and housing developments, Lincoln’s LID, and the list goes on and on… 
I keep telling my wife that Tacoma’s going to be the next Ballard when all this stuff is completed - an interesting and legitimate urban option for the younger set. 
It’s all very exciting.

April 5, 2016 at 10:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I would love to see the live music equivalent of Ballard’s Sunset or Tractor taverns in that neighborhood, or any Tacoma neighborhood.  Good music venues are good not only for music fans but for an area’s overall cred as “legitimate option for the younger set” (in Jesse’s words).  Maybe McMenamins on the other end of town will demonstrate that Tacoma can support decent touring bands.  The cheesy Jazzbones, never-reaching-its-potential New Frontier, and the occasional show in a church or living room are not cutting it in the live music department.

April 5, 2016 at 3:21 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Just today, my friends from back home in Portland, are all excited about Diana Ross coming to McMenamins Edgefield.  The campus in Tacoma will have as much square footage as Edgefield but less surrounding grounds.  Perhaps this is why the Elks location is going to have freestanding cabins in the ballroom - they can be removed later if the need for a sweet venue is warranted.

“Legitimate option for the younger set” because all the UWT Grads and career climbing youthful types always seem to end up moving to Seattle for jobs and the urban scene there…

April 5, 2016 at 3:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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The hearings examiner should approve the street vacations regarding the 6-acre tract near the UWT but in exchange for its agreement to such a proposal the city must demand prior to such consent that the developer in any land purchase agreement must meet specific goals on what buildings will be developed and on when they will be completed.  The developer has tantalized the city with pretty sketches but it is fair to respond that the city’s positive reaction to them should not be just a tease but rather a certainty on its part of what will happen.  Tacoma has long-suffered a weak private investment climate in new real estate ventures in the downtown core, which is why there must be a federal incentive to encourage overseas financing in such ventures.  On the other hand, with worthwhile public infrastructure, like the UWT, the museums, and Tacoma Link light rail, such an investment is likely no longer a possible boondoggle.  The street vacations will make the parcel that much more valuable.  The duty of the city’s economic development office is to make sure construction occurs; it would be terrible if the developer simply built a single structure and otherwise created surface parking lots on the site and defended such an action as allowable under the development agreement.  Indeed, there are too many surface parking lots in downtown Tacoma now and not enough private building construction; if the city consents to the street vacations that action must be backed by ironclad language a certain numbers of jobs will be created and buildings constructed by a specified certain date.  Fortunately, the developer has shown good faith in plans that call for walking routes through the site that, with greenery and trees, might help create the town center environment, sans cars, that would make it the project a wonderful urban amenity.  The developer should take inspiration from the private public-access gardens at Rouse Company’s Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix.

April 7, 2016 at 10:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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June 7, 2018 at 8:01 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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