Monday, August 14, 2006

Activating Pacific (Tollefson?) Plaza

This weekend, the Tacoma community once again had an opportunity to "catch the vision" of an activated Pacific Plaza with the debut of Showcase Tacoma, an event organizers hope will recur annually. BIA staff member Joanne Buselmeier continues to investigate the feasibility of setting up a management entity to promote more such actiivties in this premier public space.

The best pictures from the event currently available online were compiled by blogger Kevin Freitas. Speaking of Kevin--he's just completed a poll regarding the name change for the plaza proposed by Mayor Bill Baarsma; His Honor prefers the name "Harold M. Tollefson Square" for a previous mayor of Tacoma. Perhaps the City of Tacoma's new blog will conduct it's own poll...?

The Downtown Tacoma BIA was a co-sponsor for the event. The BIA printed and installed the colorful street banners promoting the event, stepped up bicycle security patrols around Pacific Plaza this weekend, and assigned extra hours for common area clean-up pro bono in support of this celebration of Tacoma's native son, Dale Chihuly. By the way--BIA Maintenance crews will leave the chalk art created this weekend on the sidewalks until that art has deteriorated so much as to lose its interest.

We're doing some of the same for next Saturday's Glass Roots Arts Festival. This street festival will focus on local artists/artisans of all media. The Festivals Committee for Tacoma Arts Community, a grass roots arts group, is putting on this event to showcase regional arts, artists and artisans; only goods created, designed, or recorded in the region or by someone living in the region are eligible. The Glass Roots Arts Festival will be located between 11th and 13th Streets in Court 'D' from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Contact person for the event is one of the "alumni" from our Project for Public Spaces workshop--Barb Pemberton, (253) 845-3157,, or visit her at Horatios (105 2nd St. S.W. in Puyallup, during business hours).


  1. Perhaps the City of Tacoma's new blog will conduct it's own poll...?

    That would be interesting Paul.

    The issue will be before the city council on 8/22/2006 so you might want to set it up soon.

  2. How about Pacific Paul-aza

  3. Not to flog a dying horse, but skateboarders needed no invitation to "activate" the Plaza. We, as skateboarders, understand that the activity is not appreciated by some portion of the public but would also like to point out that it IS activity! Activity is good.

    The two principle objections are "damage" and "nuisance." While we cannot really fix the latter, we are happy to work with the BIA, Marriot, or any other (Triangle-Square) stake-holders mitigate the damage.

    If there's any interest in identifying ways to prevent damage to the leading edge of the bottom step, please feel free to contact me. I'll meet anyone down there for an impromptu round of brainstorming. (There are also ways to reduce the activity without involving law enforcement if anyone is interested in talking about that...but I'd rather focus on damage.)

    Peter Whitley
    shoe: (206) 235-0138

  4. Michael9:23 PM

    I am writing to express my agreement with the piece by Kevin Freitas in the TNT; there should be a public process and I wish the BIA were taking a more active role on this issue. Like Kevin, I too participated in the Project for Public Spaces workshop. I recalled that the Mayor mentioned his idea about renaming the Plaza after a former mayor in his welcoming remarks. And so I remembered thinking that this seemed premature, especially given the nature of the workshop, and it appeared to indicate at least one pre-determined outcome for the process we were about to engage in. That seemed not respectful of the process and to those of us who were there because we care so much about the success of the area.

    As a city parks director, I all too often see this desire to memorialize people with park names. However for me parks and public spaces are, first and foremost, physical places – places that have or should have meaning to people that they can relate to, places that are -- as a News Tribune editorial once called such parks – “the heart and soul of the community.” Naming practices should in my view be anchored around such signifiers, i.e. physical landmarks, views, rivers, geography, spirit meaning. These are the things that we as individuals and as communities connect to most deeply. Case in point: do we really feel a connection to or care about the individual for which Mt. “Rainier” is named after? Or would we all feel a deeper bond with the mountain were its official name and we all were still calling it “Mt Tahoma”, the Salishan word for snow peak?

    Places are what they are … we shouldn’t rely on them to remind us of people. That is our job, as keepers of our culture and historians. Places have their intrinsic nature and meaning that is lessened when we slap somebody’s name on them that is unrelated.

    If former Mayor Tollefson is deserving to be memorialized, let the City put a statue of him somewhere. Remember, this plaza is a place that we want to have meaning for a far larger and more diverse community of residents and visitors for generations to come, not just for a small circle of Tacoma historians.