Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Three Things That Matter

The old axiom in real estate circles is that only three elements matter when evaluating properties: location, location, and location.

As several downtown stakeholders learned in Portland last week, some of Tacoma's neighboring cities in the Northwest and elsewhere are changing the definition of what "location" means, or maybe they're just closer to the realities of the current marketplace. Rising costs for land, ever more challenging environmental considerations and burgeoning traffic congestion all dictate that "access" may be the key to future development.

There's a real challenge here for Tacoma's downtown, which is finally (by all accounts) revitalized but lacks a clear direction for its next steps. Like Portland, we need three things to realize success--strong infrastructure assets, capable leadership, and a common vision that enables the whole community to work more effectively on common concerns. Will we continue to be "politically correct" and nod to greater transit use but really do little to bring it about, or will we begin to manage transportation as a development tool like Portland is doing? Will we continue to tax the City's general fund to build parking, or will we offer developers capacity through other means?

Two years ago, the Washington State Legislature granted Business Improvement Areas the right to add "transportation services" to their suite of downtown services. Since then, Seattle and Spokane have begun programs to emulate Portland and provide centralized management for employer-led efforts to manage transportation demand. Will Tacoma follow suit?

2 comments:

  1. Ebjornson9:25 PM

    There's a real challenge here for Tacoma's downtown, which is finally (by all accounts) revitalized but lacks a clear direction for its next steps.

    We are certainly moving in the right direction. However, the north part of Pacific Avenue still has about 25 - 30 percent retail vacancies and the canacy rates increase as one traveles up the hill.

    Like Portland, we need three things to realize success--strong infrastructure assets, capable leadership, and a common vision that enables the whole community to work more effectively on common concerns.

    Yes, we need good leadership. However, we are still left with the question of what a good leader would lead us to.

    There is a limit of what the City of Tacoma can do to make downtown Tacoma a success as they can't control businesses or residents directly. They can do best by providing the ground or framework for success.

    Here's a start:

    1) Clean and safe downtown

    2) Easily walkable streets with open, wide and inviting paths creating "short blocks."

    3) Require retail on first floor levels of buildings.

    4) Require buildings to be brought out to the sidewalk.

    5) Continue with the multi family tax exemption.

    6) Require blighted properties to be cleaned up.

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  2. Ebjornson4:05 PM

    Speaking of the importance of walkability of downtown as being a continued priority.

    Apparently, the museum is propoing a "tweek" to the wall concept at the end of bridge of glass and is proposing that the brick wall with a window on it.

    Kevin Freitas is holding a
    online poll to determine what percent of people wish to have direct pedestrian access.

    Here's apparently the proposal from museum:

    "The original design included a small opening in the wall through which viewers could see the bridge of glass. Nicandri described a new design that expands the size of the opening and covers it with glass."

    Unfortunately, the proposal doesn't help much the problems that the wall creates.

    Pedestrian Access

    The brick wall with a glass window would still block all direct pedestrian access to the Bridge of Glass. No help there.

    Security

    One of the objections to the brick wall by the city was the lack of ability to view and monitor the area by police. The "brick wall with a window" proposal would still produce the same problem. A person in a police car on the street would still not be able to monitor the area on the other side of the wall which creates a crime problems especially for people considering going to the Foss Waterway late at night.

    Navigation Problems

    A window in the brick wall would still not allow people from cars and the other side of street to able to view the bridge of glass for navigational purposes to see and locate the bridge. The window would only help for people right near the wall.

    In the end, the window only serves to frustrate pedestrians who would like to access the bridge of glass but are forced to take a 200 ft detour.

    Continued view obstruction

    Unfortunatly, the proposed "brick wall with a window" would only help the view for the people right up next to the wall. For people around the area, on the road or accross the street, the view would continue to be obstructed.

    Hopefullly, the city will look at the health of the city overall and make sure city residents and visitors are able to gain direct access to the Bridge of Glass which they paid for. The health of the Foss Waterway and the general useabbility of the area should be a high priority.

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