The Future of Tacoma’s Brewery District

Tacoma’s Economic Development Committee recently heard a presentation on possibilities for the future of the city’s Brewery District. A Technical Assistance Panel from Urban Land Institute (ULI) Northwest presented recommendations on how to transform the Brewery District into a “high-density, mixed use Urban Center.” The City worked with ULI to obtain practical advice on methods to achieve the vision of transforming the Brewery District into a high-density, mixed-use urban center.

Key recommendations from the Executive Summary focus on creating an identity for the district with an emphasis on the area’s history and “showcasing existing assets and building upon [the] production-based environment.” Other suggestions emphasize preservation of key streetscapes and iconic features (Heidelberg tower, anyone?), while promoting connections with UWT, museums, the waterfront and Dome District. The report suggests populating the area with food production, distilling, arts, and entertainment-based activities. Another key recommendation is the creation of an independent entity (a Public Development Authority or Community Development Corporation) – focused, equipped with expertise, and able to assume financial risk – to make things happen.

Since the City received an initial report from ULI last year, several related projects have been moving forward. The South Downtown Sub Area Plan has been initiated, including an Environmental Impact Statement designed to help expedite development in the area. Other projects are either complete, or substantially on their way to completion, including the LeMay Museum, the new Tioga Library Building at UWT, the Holiday Inn Express on 21st Street, and the Sounder extension to Lakewood. Infrastructure improvements are also being made, and an LID is being considered for the area.

Although there is no timeline yet, the ULI report makes recommendations for implementation, beginning with the City-owned property in the district, including the Stables Building. The report suggests concentrating initial development on the Public Works Blocks between South 23rd and 25th streets, with a strategic mix of public and private development. For the Stables Building, the suggestion is live/work lofts, artist studios, gallery space, restaurants, etc. For the middle and upper blocks owned by the City, the report suggests UWT joint use, performance space, fabrication space, etc.; and more live/work lofts, workforce housing, art fabrication, etc. That would be phase one…

So, who’s ready to get started?

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The Stables Building is one of my favorite buildings in the city.  But is there a building elsewhere to move the operations that are housed there now or would the new use require building a new facility for that?

November 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Stacy A

I’ve been hoping for the development of this area for years. Conceptually it seems like a very good idea so long as many of the existing brick buildings in the area can be restored and integrated into new construction. Although the narrative speaks of preservation, it’s difficult to tell from the drawing whether these buildings will be preserved or not. I think that many of the buildings in this area really speak to Tacoma’s history and have a lot of (admittedly raw) charm.

November 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

The drawing doesn’t show the 30% tree canopy which is supposed to be included in all new residential development. Where’s the canopy?

November 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Here’s where they should start:…

It would put three sets of streetcar tracks through that area.  As well, downtown is long and narrow so walking the length of it is like walking a much larger city.

I like the plans if they can make it happen…

November 3, 2012 at 9:27 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jesse, Tacoma is primarily made up of single family homes.  Most of recent improvements have been around the core of Tacoma, which is great.  We also need to remember that the outlying areas need access to get to the core as well.  I am a native New York City/New Jersey resident that has lived in Portland.  I have used public transportation for some time now.  Portland, New York City and Rome are very different than Tacoma and for our purposes, they do not lend themselves as good comparisons. We will never have the density these cities have as far as stacked housing units.  Our city is a city of single family homes with some lofts and condos.  We should cater to who is currently here now, with enough vision to see who will be coming.  Our city link needs to have a major destination at either end of the line, with heavy residential in between, to supply enough ridership TO <span class=“caps”>SOMEWHERE</span>.  Where are people going now in large quantities?  Will they be willing to pay to get there? Let’s start identifying these places first and then discuss our wants versus our needs.  I have taken the max on plenty of occasions to the mall.  Why is that such a crazy idea here.  This should not be looked upon as a joy ride, but a vehicle to better the quality of life of our local people.

November 3, 2012 at 10:31 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Let the rich investors/developers pay for their own risky ventures.

The city is about bankrupt and taxpayers have subsidized too many failure ideas and boondoggles from the rich.Rich people don’t need welfare.

Taxpayers are tired of the scams/schemes.

Secession and breakup of the city might be needed instead..

November 4, 2012 at 7:23 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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@Albert:  I am also from Portland.  How long were you there?  I remember before Max and Streetcar where downtown was a ghost town past 5pm.  In fact, I read an article about a month ago in The Oregonian about how Streetcar there is less about transit and more about economic development in places where the city deemed it necessary.

<span class=“caps”>BTW</span>, Max is long distance light rail.  Streetcar is used to tie together a city.  You were able to take Max to Lloyd Center because it’s along the way to Gresham from downtown.  There’s no way Portland would ever build a streetcar just to service the mall or to service half of a popular bus route.

November 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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@4 I disagree with your assessment of of 6th avenue as being suburban as soon as you cross Sprague.  I would chalenge you to name any place in Tacoma that has more dense living conditions than the on campus housing at the University of Puget Sound.  There are also plenty of other multifamily housing units within 2 blocks of 6th Avenue between Sprague and Union.  Take a look at census data.  I’ll bet that more people live at <span class=“caps”>UPS</span> than all of Tacoma Avenue.

November 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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@Dan: Would you like high density along 6th avenue or downtown?  Streetcars usually cause high density.  I would pick downtown over 6th avenue if I were to pick where I’d want larger scale mixed use buildings built.

<span class=“caps”>IMO</span>, 6th avenue is better served if light rail to Gig Harbor is ever built.  It’s outside of downtown and on the way to Gig Harbor.

There are certainly higher density apartment complexes in any suburbia.  <span class=“caps”>UPS</span> dorm halls are an exception for housing in that corridor, not the rule.

I sorta “get it” that the people along 6th ave want to feel like they’re hip urbanites… but the fact is that that area is mostly single family housing and therefore the suburbs.

November 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I was just pointing out where density is, not where I want it to be.  I’d love to see Tacoma Ave and <span class=“caps”>MLK</span> develop into more vibrant, dense, mixed use neighborhoods.  I think the Brewery Distric also has a ton of potential with it proximity to UW and transportation of all kinds.  You have some good points.  My point is just that, up to the intersection with Union, suburbia is a mischaracterization of the mixed-use, mixed density neighborhood that exists along 6th. It may not be the place with the most potential to infill more development and density, but a new line would imediately have high ridership.  It just depends on priorities I guess.

November 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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@9:  By that standard, Wallingford in Seattle, SE Portland, and countless other urban (mostly) single family housing neighborhoods are “the suburbs.”  They’re not, and neither is 6th Ave.

November 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Agree to disagree.

November 9, 2012 at 9:07 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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It looks like the transit measure, Proposition 1 is going to fail.  That is such a step backward for Tacoma.  Downtown could turn back into a Ghost town.  That would be sad to see.  I would think it would hurt 6th ave. businesses, too, not having public transportation to speak of.  (None at all on weekends and none at all after 7 pm).  I believe that would start in March 2013, less than 3 months away.  The city will be a lot less livable, if this happens.  So sad after all the progress that has been made.

November 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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