Voters Will Get to Weigh-In on Pierce County Services Building

Voters will get a chance to have their say on plans for the new Pierce County General Services Building to be located in Tacoma's Lincoln District. It just may not actually count for anything. That's the outcome of last night's County Council meeting: the Council voted 4 to 3 to give voters the chance to cast an advisory vote on the building this August.

Because it's an "advisory vote," the results aren't binding - they don't technically force the County to make any change to its planned course. That said, however, it may be hard for the County to ignore the results. Meanwhile the County Executive will move forward with plans for the legal and financial groundwork for the building, something the earlier council vote approving the project requires. 

The advisory vote is scheduled for August 4; how will you vote?

Read more from The News Tribune.

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Give credit to Pierce County leaders for conceiving of a sleek and smart county administration complex that gives dignity to government services that bond society together—tasteful (compared to the current county annex) but modest (no stone palace like the sorely-lost old Pierce County Courethouse demolished in 1959).  Somehow though the smooth workings of the process that brought about the building at times short-changed some relevant issues, especially transit connections for residents in outlying areas like Lakewood and Puyallup now served by Sound Transit heavy-rail passenger service.  The downtown option had some fair objectsion, like the lack of affordable hours-long parking and the steep hill between Tacoma and Pacific avenues have always frustrated walkers who caught buses to Commerce Street.  Yet noticeably absent in the county’s approved plan for the complex at S. 36th and Pacific are direct transit connections to the Tacoma Dome Station transit facility.  While such a county facility by law must be located in Tacoma and is viewed as catylyst to energize Tacoma’s near-in South End, there has been little information about nearby changed-zoning or building opportunities along Pacific Avenue by the city that might stimulate private-sector job-creating investment in that area.  There is no doubt the new building will save county funds over time but county leaders must be thoughtful about how transit and municipal jurisdictions in the surrounding area are going to leverage the project to create maximize economic and transportation benefits to all citizens.  A big argument for proponents of a downtown location is how such a building might spur economic growth there; yet a major new county building might spur new jobs along Pacific Avenue south of Interstate 5..  For the adivsory vote, many citizens are going to wonder how such a building may help not only boost revitalization for a certain middle-class heritage neighborhood but also generally inspire economic growth for the whole county for an area located next to a major freeway interchange and uphill from a major transit facility.  Too many Pierce County residents commute to Seattle for work.  What can be done to bring some of those work opportunities to Tacoma?

April 29, 2015 at 1:03 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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paolo “there has been little information about nearby changed-zoning or building opportunities along Pacific Avenue by the city that might stimulate private-sector job-creating investment in that area.”

The zoning for the commercial mixed use center where the building will be built is CCX zoning, the same as James Center. Five new projects have launched in the last half dozen years, making it one of the most active centers seeing new development. At 8 stories this won’t even be the tallest building in the Pacific Mixed-use Center. There are other vacant parcels that have been assembled by companies like Bartel’s nearby awaiting a catalytic project. This center was designed and already zoned to attract development of this scale, explaining why the County does not need a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) or a variance.
The building will anchor the Pacific Ave Business District, while strengthening the McKinley and Lincoln Business Districts. More info on those districts here:

It will be built along Pierce Transit #1 route which serves the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, adjacent to the new location. Currently Pierce Transit reportedly has 500 boardings per day at TPCHD stop, making it one of the busiest stops in the network. Three additional bus lines also serve the location at this time and it is directly connected to large number of transit centers and park & rides. Given the location on Pacific Ave, it would solidify the case for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Tacoma.

April 29, 2015 at 6:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Fragmenting (sprawling) the downtown business district has been done before.  Remember Tacoma of the 1970’s?  If you don’t, here’s a reminder:

The fact of the matter is that this project is bad planning to the moon and back.  What aspect of it is good?

Is it the financial aspect?  Well, 38 employees need to be fired to get it paid for.  It ups the current rents almost three-fold.  It doesn’t help the nearby lunch or shopping scene because employees have a half hour lunch and can’t walk to the business district in that amount of time.  Adding 1100 parking spots, because this is located next to a neighborhood and they don’t want people parking on the streets, adds costs you wouldn’t see in a downtown location.  Maintenance of a tower is also said to be a whole lot more.  ADDING transit because of a large project located between two business districts adds money to the cost of the project - especially when tens-of-millions have been spent on a transit core downtown.  Besides, look into the VA project that the same firm built, with the same deal, and you’ll basically find financial scandal.  “We’re at $60m… no, wait… $70m….wait… $90m….wait… $127m… wait… $142m… wait, we didn’t factor in lease payments…wait… we’re at over $240m… wait…”

What about location?  The location is in-between two business districts and 0.7 miles from the closest, the Lincoln District.  That means it is a nine story building built right next to a neighborhood.  In fact, at the January 22 meeting where the architects explained the project, they themselves claimed that they had never designed an office tower to be built next to a neighborhood and that they tried hard to “mitigate” the consequences - light pollution, traffic, parking, putting the building up against Pacific Avenue, etc. 

If there is a lunch crowd from this project, they can’t go far because of time vs distance constraints with their 10 hour work days and half-hour lunch periods.  That means businesses will try and build around this site instead of the current business districts that are 0.7 miles away, thus hurting the older districts. 

If there is a County employee crowd interested in living by this project, I would be surprised.  The project is built like an island.  Look at the outside edges.  Do you see influx and outflow of people on all edges?  Does it promote life out on the sidewalk like shops or restaurants would?  Why is there even a reason to be walking by it if you’re a pedestrian?  Why would a person working at the County want to live by it if they’re already driving (this project absolutely promotes employees to drive to it) to work?  I mean, they already basically have to get in their car anyways, so why not live in the North End, Puyallup, or Gig Harbor?  They certainly have the incomes to.

April 30, 2015 at 8:34 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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What about transit?  With the massive investments in transit in the downtown core and the supposed rebuilding of downtown to attract investment, workers, and residents, this project is a slap in the face to all those who actively promote those things.  With easy transit, like Link, people want to live by it.  It helps them eliminate a car, etc, etc—- we know the positive attributes of living by good transit.  This project may add costs by giving the impression that BRT is needed on Pacific Avenue to serve it.  Don’t get me wrong, BRT would be ideal on Pacific - but it would be an added cost to this project because it’s not needed right now and it wouldn’t be needed if this project were rightly downtown.

What about “potential?”  Building a project like this COULD be a catalyst project if done right.  It has to be in the right area and be really a part of it - creating a workable lunch crowd with options near enough, on great and easy transit to live on, and in a dynamic walkable area where shopping is possible.  It needs to feel like it is integrated into the area as far as people coming and going from it.  With a car centric campus like this, this isn’t possible.  Car centric means void sidewalk traffic and therefore few shopping options near enough for the employees to use on their limited time.  They have to get into their car and deal with the massive traffic increase the project will cause.  They’ll just wait until they get near their home - you know, the home they drive to off of the freeway on/off ramps within blocks of this project.

Also, economic impact has not been considered with this project.  Why does a project like State Farm, with it’s 900 mediocre call-center jobs cause all kinds of victory dances while this project, with it’s 1300 solid middle-class income jobs, get ignored?  Why tout State Farm and it’s impact on downtown residential projects, and not even look into what this project might do?  I did.  I contacted Yareton Investments and asked if this project were in the core if they’d build their second condo tower - the one that is $65m and right now just a “maybe” project.  They said it might tilt the scales.  The potential downtown is much greater that the burbs here.  See?  I mean, Lincoln neighborhood (this isn’t in the business “district”) might get a Taco Time if this is built there - downtown would likely get housing projects worth tens of millions.

In the end, this project is disturbing to me in that so much emphasis has been put on rebuilding downtown and what that would mean to the entire region.  So much money to attract developments so “someday” someone might locate their good jobs there… and here we are… the government itself has an opportunity and declines.  The message it deafening. 

April 30, 2015 at 8:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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This never ends, does it? Believe it or not, there is a lot more to Tacoma than Downtown. Gosh, this time you not only trash the Lincoln District, but State Farm call center employees? Transit? the #1 bus is faster than the LINK (I use both) Suburbs? The site is just a little over a mile from UWT. The Lincoln District is Tacoma, not a suburb. What do you care anyway? Do you use transit? Do you even live in Tacoma? Are you trying to use this County project to close some downtown real estate deal with some Chinese investors? What is your angle here?

April 30, 2015 at 9:24 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Hey, don’t take my word for any of this.  Go talk to architects, city planners, developers, anyone who knows about this subject and doesn’t have a stake in this project.  They’ll tell you the same stuff.

April 30, 2015 at 9:48 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Hey, don’t take my word for any of this.  Go talk to architects, city planners, developers, anyone who knows about this subject and doesn’t have a stake in this project.  They’ll tell you the same stuff.

I for one have heard enough from these damn fools.  Anyone with a lick of common sense should have nothing but contempt for them at this point.

April 30, 2015 at 9:58 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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The masses prohibit by majority rule.
The masses are ignorant.
This project is suffering from ignorant prohibition.

April 30, 2015 at 8:46 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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“In the end, this project is disturbing to me in that so much emphasis has been put on rebuilding downtown and what that would mean to the entire region.  So much money to attract developments so “someday” someone might locate their good jobs there… and here we are… the government itself has an opportunity and declines.  The message it deafening.”

~ 1992 I attended meetings and listened to the “visualize Tacoma” spiel, made a few comments: 
1) So you are proposing to “defer maintenance” for an indeterminate length of time in order to concentrate on the downtown redevelopment zone.
2) You are claiming that if the City does this as well as raids the budget of all of our maintenance shops and redirects those funds to the Economic Development effort that before long new taxpaying businesses and residents will be herding and flocking into the redevelopment zone
3) You also claim that these new residents and businesses will be contributing enough new revenues that what they pay in taxes over and above what it costs to provide these new businesses and residents with services will pay off many times over
4) You say that “before we know it” there will be a “dividend” and that this dividend will be more than enough to make up for increased deterioration caused by neglect. 

Then asked a couple questions:
1) Can you please narrow down how long “before long” and “before we know it” represents in years?  Are we talking ten years? 
Comment 5) OK so you are not comfortable claiming that within ten years the “investment” will have matured and the rest of the City of Tacoma will be seeing revenues from this district being used to “pay back” the damage caused by deferring maintenance. 
2) Are you talking about three or four decades before we can expect to see a return on our investment?
3) So you are saying that you are not comfortable limiting the time before this “investment” will show a tangible return to ten years, but you are promising me that it will pay off long before twenty years.  Is that correct?

We are now going on the THIRD DECADE of revenues being sucked out of every neighborhood in the City of Tacoma and poured into that bottomless money pit with nothing to show for it except specious arguments being advanced by people like Jesse. 


April 30, 2015 at 9:56 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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altered chords

county employees work 10 hour work days and take 1/2 lunch?  That’s lunchbreak inequality right there.  We need to organize a protest.  Down with the 1% who enjoy hour long lunchbreaks!

April 30, 2015 at 1:07 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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