Thursday, September 07, 2006

Downtown Housing - The Big(ger) Picture

As readers of this blog will know from our post earlier this week, the Tacoma City Council is expected next week to take action to help Oakland-based A.F. Evans Development to pursue plans to renovate the controversial Winthrop Hotel and continue its use as a center for low-income housing.

Downtown activists continue to fight Evans' aquisition of the former hotel. Attorney Erik Bjornson has posted a very articulate summation of why the Winthrop should be redeveloped as a hotel, and a group led by local business owner Tim Quigg hopes to rally enough support to bankroll such an effort as an alternative to Evans' plan. Blogger Kevin Freitas is running another poll to sound out community feelings, but the hotel option probably has the edge. After all, that's why the Winthrop was built in the first place through another community effort in the early 1900s.

Newspaper columnist Peter Callaghan has struggled (in terms reminiscent of this blog) to find a middle path--restoring the Winthrop as a grand hotel while using current residents' vouchers, along with other grants and loans available for low-income housing, to support development of other new housing.

The Winthrop issue is a crucial one for the future of downtown, and next Tuesday's decision will be pivotal, but it will hardly be the final decision on the building. And, the ultimate long-term use for the Winthrop is just part of the bigger picture of downtown housing (covered in a previous post)--an area which is also undergoing some long-deserved new scrutiny.

Next Friday, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber's quarterly City Center Luncheon will examine many facets of the current housing picture. Attendees will hear a report on current consideration by the Tacoma City Council of expanding the definition of downtown and strategies to support the current boom in market rate units. A housing developer, a real estate agent marketing condo units in a transitional area, and one of the urban center's pioneering young residents will also present their varied perspectives on this issue.


  1. Anonymous8:59 PM

    One of the members of Quigg's team who would play a prime role in restoring the Winthrop Hotel is Chester Trabucco who restored the Hotel Elliot in Astoria Oregon.

    Quigg is also partnering on the restoration of the Morck Hotel in Aberdeen. His partner is Seattle developer Chester Trabucco, who also rehabilitated the Hotel Elliott in Astoria, Ore.,

    (TNT editor blog 8/23)

    Quig and Trabucco are also working successfully to address the same issues with the Morck Hotel in Aberdeen:

    The Elliott and the Morck is similiar to the Winthrop in vintage (circa 1924-25) and in current use as low-income housing. Trabucco apparently had success at relocating the low-income residents in Astoria when he renovated that hotel a few years ago, and he and Quigg have promised the Morck residents the same assistance.

    Thus, it looks like we have the right people set to restore the Winthrop Hotel and address the low income housing issue.

    Let's give them a chance.

    Make sure to tell council members
    council members your opinion and attend the hearing at city council on the Winthrop Hotel at city hall 747 Market St. first floor at 5:00 p.m. Monday 9/12 to give your comments.

  2. Anonymous9:23 PM


    The city council meeting on the Winthrop Hotel is on Tuesday, September 12th 5:00 p.m. at 747 Market St. first floor.

  3. Anonymous2:22 PM

    Winthrop Update

    Below is an article Friday in the Seattle PI about the Lake Washington Apartments that A.F. Evans manages in Seattle.

    According the article, the building is crime ridden and out of control:

    Drug dealing, shootings, beatings, syringes on lawns, stolen mail, feces and urine in hallways, and condoms in the laundry rooms have plagued the Lake Washington Apartments this summer, say tenants. . .

    The Lake Washington Apartments, at 9061 Seward Park Ave. S. in Rainier Beach, have been co-owned the past 10 years by AF Evans, a private California-based property management firm, and the non-profit Southeast Effective Development organization (SEED), which promotes low-income housing in Rainier Valley.

    "The horror stories are coming from a criminal element we're trying to get rid of. That's the issue,"

    Large high-density, high-rise low income housing projects have been a failure in many cities due to increased crime and disorder. Such a design is against the recommendation of HUD. (See Creating Defensible Space, Newman 2004).

    Thus, A.F. Evan’s proposal for the Winthrop Hotel continuing as a high rise low income high density housing project should be rejected.

    We can do better.

    (Cross posted on