Thursday, April 26, 2007

More Growth Ahead for UW Tacoma

Tacoma's downtown campus of the University of Washington can look forward to further growth as a result of action during the 2007 Legislature.

The operating budget approved last week by the Legislature includes provision for nearly 4,500 students at the University of Washington Tacoma during the next two years. Moreover, the UWT is budgeted to receive $6.1 million for pre-design and design phases for redevelopment of the Joy Building (1717-1730 Pacific Ave.), including the addition of a fourth floor. This will provide nearly 70,000 square feet of additional classroom and faculty office space.

Lawmakers also threw a curve to the UWT's expansion plans in the area of multiple unit housing on the campus. Under legislation passed this Session, new or rehabilitated multiple unit housing that is or will be within the boundaries of a campus facilities master plan is not eligible for the coveted ten-year property tax exemption unless the university otherwise provides prior written approval.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tacoma Police Chief Unveils Strategic Plan

Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell this week presented a 34-page improvement plan to City of Tacoma leaders, culminating more than eighteen months of effort.

Among the document's 36 priorities is a mentoring program, performance evaluations at all levels, training in law enforcement techniques as well as management, a crime analysis unit, an upgraded forensics department and a more effective patrol schedule.

Other priorities identified in the report include:
  • Develop a comprehensive plan to use data in crime management
  • Create a progressive information technology department that capitalizes on technology
  • Create and implement a leadership review process
  • Create a method to address and track community needs
  • Integrate community-oriented policing into all job functions
  • Create ways for citizens to become involved and participate in reducing crime
  • Strengthen community and city partnerships to solve and prevent crimes
  • Develop effective external public relationships and a marketing campaign

Ramsdell has worked to rebuild Tacoma’s trust in its police since 2003, when then-Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife, then killed himself. He’s long been a proponent of community-oriented policing, and the plan calls for strengthening those ties and builds on programs and partnerships that have shown success.

One of those partnerships is with the BIA. As part of the renewal process, the BIA Board of Directors is developing a budget to underwrite the cost of one FTE officer salary beginning in May 2008. That line item and the broader relationship between the City and the district will be the subject of a good deal of discussion during the next few months.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Parking & Transit Forums Resume Tonight

City Manager Eric Anderson's second round of meetings regarding downtown parking and transit issues begins tonight in the Hilltop neighborhood. These public forums will present answers to the questions posed in the first round in each of the six defined neighborhoods--the Theater District, the Dome District, the Stadium District, the Hilltop, the Thea Foss Waterway area and the UWT campus.

First round questions and answers are now available online.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Spring Blooms Downtown

The Daffodil Festival Grand Floral Street Parade will begin rolling in Tacoma at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, April 21st. Its route will be south on Pacific Ave. from 11th to 19th streets. Festival Queen Michele Wood of Sumner High School and her royal court will preside over the festivities. The celebration's theme this year is "Daffodils & All That Jazz!"

On Sunday, the Daffodil Marine Regatta will start at 11:30 a.m. with decorated boats traveling along the Ruston Way waterfront.

The American Daffodil Society is holding its annual convention at the Sheraton Tacoma Hotel through the weekend. This event is also an official part of Daffodil Festival activities, and many convention events will be open to the public without charge. The National Daffodil Show will be open this afternoon and all day tomorrow with both horticulture and photography displays.

More About 'Go Local'

Our earlier posting about the “Go Local” Passport Program left out some important details.

When: "Go Local"--designed to publicize downtown Tacoma and encourage patronage of downtown merchants--is set to kick off in Theater Square coincident with start of the Tacoma Farmers Market on May 17th.

Sponsors: This promotion brings together a fantastic partnership between the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber's Leadership 2007 Class, the Downtown Merchants Group (DMG), the Tacoma Farmers Market, and Pierce Transit. Special recognition is due Patricia Lecy-Davis, the owner of Embellish Salon and current president of the DMG, for her creative vision and her leadership in pulling all the parties together.

How: Passports will be distributed to the public at the kick-off party. The “Go Local” Passport is a map of downtown Tacoma with room for 30 businesses to be listed, along with a discount or offer, around the perimeter of the map. Each merchant will be provided with a stamp to stamp their offer upon customer presentation/redemption. Additional passports will be made available to the public at participating merchants all summer long. Fully completed Passports (stamped by each business listed) will be collected on October 18th and entered into a prize drawing.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"All eyes (and wheels) on the street"

In his article today in the Tacoma Daily Index, editor Todd Matthews recounts his experiences riding the beat with BIA bike patrol officers Sarah Kirkman and John Leitheiser (pictured at right).

Tacoma City Councilmember Julie Anderson also took part in Matthews' wheel through downtown streets, conducted this past weekend.

If you've ever wondered what it's like to serve on the BIA Security Patrol, this is the article to read!

Upcoming Intersection Closure

On Sunday, April 22nd, the City of Tacoma will be replacing a concrete panel at the intersection of 11th & Broadway. During construction, portions of the road will be restricted to one lane of traffic in each direction, which may cause some traffic delays. The panel replacement is being done to prepare for repaving the intersection later on in this construction season.

The intersection of 11th & Market is also scheduled for repaving later this season. The repaving of both these intersections will require street closures. Notification of those closures will be sent out the week proceeding the actual work being done.

For more information, contact Jerry Larsen at the City of Tacoma, (253) 591-5600.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Boost Downtown's Best--Nominate!

In May, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and Absher Construction will once again present the New Tacoma Awards to recognize achievers for their ongoing role in improving tomorrow’s downtown:

Ghilarducci Award
Recognizing successful new development, renovation or beautification
Popham Award
Recognizing the individual that has done the most to build “community spirit”
Union Station Award
Recognizing leading organizations, companies or individuals that have built or sustained momentum for revitalization
Schoenfeld Award
Recognizing exemplary performance (and pizzazz!) as a retailer

Past award recipients for each category are as follows:

  • Ghilarducci Award - Avanti Spa, Tacoma Art Museum, and Thea’s Landing
  • Popham Award - Marty Campbell, Patricia Lecy-Davis, and Sondra Purcell
  • Union Station Award – The Grand Cinema, John Tartaglia, and the University of Washington Tacoma
  • Schoenfeld Award - Aroma Coffee, heel! Shoes and urbanXchange

Nomination forms are now available, and stakeholders are encouraged to download the forms and use them to recommend an individual, business or organization that are particularly worthy of merit, and submit nominations no later than April 27th. Winners will be recognized at the quarterly City Center Luncheon on May 18th.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shoreline Height Hearing Tomorrow Evening

Following extensive public review over the past few years, Tacoma City officials hope to move ahead with a proposal to modify Tacoma’s Shoreline Master Program (Tacoma Municipal Code Chapter 13.10.110) to allow an alternative development option (tower and podium building form) that would allow buildings with a maximum building height of 180 feet on three development sites (Municipal Dock site, Site 10 and Site 11) located in the southern portion of Zone 1.

A public hearing for this proposal has been set for tomorrow evening as follows:

Date: Wednesday, April 18th
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Place: City Council Chambers, 747 Market Street, First Floor
The City has been working with proponents of the changes to help mitigate concerns--mostly from property owners whose current view may be compromised if the changes are allowed. The proposed maximum height of 180 feet would only be allowed if the majority of the building’s use is residential and only under certain other conditions. Projects would also be required to maintain an average of 100 feet between the towers, which would be restricted in width. Projects would also be required to provide enlarged view/access corridors.

The proposed amendment also clarifies the responsibilities of the Thea Foss Waterway Development Authority (FWDA) for conducting design review on all public properties on the west side of the using the criteria and guidelines in the Thea Foss Waterway Design and Development Plan (Foss Plan).

Monday, April 16, 2007

That's Entertainment!

Sunday's edition of The News Tribune ran our oped on the need for an "entertainment district" approach to managing conflicting uses in the Theater District (particularly the Lower Pacific blocks once known as "Whiskey Row").

Local property owners, business managers and residents are being invited to a meeting later this month to examine how a collaborative effort--based upon guidelines established by the Responsible Hospitality Institute--might lead to lessened friction between the different uses operating there. RHI's guidelines define "best practices" to help local groups assess and address current and future issues, resources, gaps and trends related to dining, entertainment and special events. Ultimately, the effort can help develop new regulations that can help diverse uses successfully co-exist.

If it's successful, this process can be more effective than the "top down" approach currently being pursued in Seattle. We're Tacoma--we can do better!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

'Go Local' Passport Program Supports Downtown Merchants

The “Go Local” Passport Program is a new initiative seeking to draw customers into downtown through use of a map that participating merchants stamp upon customer presentation/redemption.

"Go Local" is a project conceived by members of the Leadership 2007 Class, a thirteen-week program sponsored by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and Pacific Lutheran University. Selection and completion of a group project is required to graduate from the class.

Passports will be distributed to the public at the kick-off party on May 17th. Additional passports will be made available to the public through participating merchants all summer long. Fully completed passports (stamped by each business listed) will be collected through October 18th and then entered into a prize drawing.

The members of the Leadership 2007 class that created the "Go Local" Passport Program:
  • Pam Brewer, Franciscan Health System
  • Christina Kitchens, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber
  • Donna Miller, Simpson Tacoma Kraft Co.
  • David Printz, The Gurus
  • Jean Smith, Venture Bank
  • Carol Young, United Way of Pierce County

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The World is Coming to Tacoma

Downtown Tacoma is hosting the first annual World Affairs Summit April 19th-21st.

The event will offer local and regional presenters on three themes: peace and social justice, the environment and education, all designed to broaden perspectives about how the global community impacts Tacoma and Pierce County. The concept of the Summit comes from Boulder, CO, where the community has held a Conference on World Affairs for more than 50 years.

The World Affairs Summit will have presentations and conversations in many venues in the Museum District and along the Link light rail line. All venues are free of charge and attendees participate on a first-come, first-served basis.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Another Opportunity to Investigate Parks Proposal

Merchants, artists and other downtown stakeholders expressed concerns last week about the proposal to transfer permitting processes and event management support to Metro Parks Tacoma, which currently is expanding its focus on special events in the community as a part of its strategic plan.

The City of Tacoma will be hosting another community meeting from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. this coming Thursday evening in the City Council Chambers (the first floor of the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St.) as an additional opportunity to share information and respond to questions or concerns in advance of the April 17th public hearing.

There's also a new page on the City's website with information about the proposal.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Public Meeting Update

City Manager Eric Anderson's second round of meetings regarding downtown parking issues has been postponed for about two weeks; the series of meetings will now begin on April 23rd in the Hilltop area.

Despite some rough sledding at the two public input sessions this past Monday, the Tacoma City Council will keep to its plans to hold a public hearing on plans to merge event permitting and planning responsibilities and transfer those operations to Metro Parks Tacoma. That hearing will be held on Tuesday evening, April 17th, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Wal-Mart in Downtown Tacoma?

Dan Voelpel's column about Wal-Mart's interest in downtown Tacoma in Sunday's edition of The News Tribune alarmed or angered some readers--those who didn't write it off as an "April Fools Day" piece, that is.

But Voelpel's information about the big box retailers reconfigured urban model for its stores is spot on. The need to keep investors happy and maintain revenue growth has pushed many retailers into exploration (at least) of the generally underserved urban market. If Wal-Mart will pursue major expansion in China (a move some wags point out is an Oriental version of "buying local"), then why not downtowns--especially when, like Tacoma, that geographic area is growing an affluent customer base?

Note the observation from White Plains that their "downtown business improvement district says Wal-Mart has brought a lot of foot traffic downtown". Many districts keep a regular tally of feet on the street, a prime piece of data for retailers. Given our BIA's theme, maybe we should, too.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sound Off About Downtown Parking & Transit--Round Two

City Manager Eric Anderson will begin a second round of meetings regarding downtown parking issues in each of the six defined neighborhoods--the Theater District, the Dome District, the Stadium District, the Hilltop, the Thea Foss Waterway area and the UWT campus--beginning next Monday evening.

Members of the Chamber's Parking Advisory Committee--who have been wrestling with these issues for over a year on behalf of stakeholders--are also developing a set of recommendations to help inform the City's efforts. The end result may be a more systematic approach to this perennial downtown concern--which seems to have been under debate since cars began...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Seattle Cites Tacoma's Creative Revival

James Vesely, Editorial Page Editor for The Seattle Times, wrote a glowing piece on the Creative Cities initiative in his column in yesterday's newspaper.

Vesely gets it right, citing the effort as "an initiative to merge imagination and academia into a creative combination" by building on four key pricipals articulated by cultural guru Richard Florida, who has been part of the initiative from the start.

While the Seattle (dba "regional") press has been at times disdainful of all things Tacoman, its been consiostently supportive of the Creative Cities inititative. When will Tacoma's local press do the same?