Monday, September 18, 2006

Taking the Pulse of Living in the Heart (II)

The diverse panel at Friday's City Center Luncheon addressed problems and prospects for the continued growth of market rate housing in Tacoma's downtown.

This author kicked off the discussion by highlighting the fact that the downtown housing boom is a phenomenon seen across North America and relating some of the factors that are making it happen. Lawrence O. Houstoun Jr., principal in the Atlantic Group, compiled the following list, which was quoted at the meeting:
  • Experience opportunities, which he defines as the concentration of things to do and see in urban centers,
  • Changing views about urban crime,
  • The effects of business improvement districts,
  • The rise in single person households, and
  • Remarkable and persistent low mortgage rates.
Next up was blogger Derek Young, the author of and creator of the comprehensive Condo Project Map, an interactive online tool citing the reality--and rumors--of residential projects in Tacoma's City Center. Derek discussed the importance of public safety as a necessary foundation for urban living, highlighted the need for balancing housing with office and retail uses, and cited the current lack of retail services as a real shortcoming for downtown's attractiveness as a place to live. Of course, Derek has provided his own take on the event on his blog.

Colleen Walker, the real estate agent who is selling condos for Intracorp's CitySteps project, identified the three questions that potential buyers typically ask:
  1. How safe is downtown Tacoma?
  2. Where's the shopping?
  3. Can new development in this area block its current views?
Colleen reported that she has thus far sold 17 of the 40 condos for sale in the development, located in an emerging area of downtown at 2100 Yakima Ave.

Finally, Thea's Landing resident Darren Brewster discussed how it feels to be an urban living pioneer in Tacoma today. Darren works for the World Trade Center Tacoma and thus has virtually no commute. He was effusive in his listing of exciting things to do downtown, but echoed the earlier speakers in underscoring the foundational importance of public safety and in yearning for more retail enterprises.

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