Monday, May 21, 2007

Chamber Names 2007 New Tacoma Award Winners

Each year, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber--acting in concert with and on behalf of the larger downtown community--recognizes achievement and contributions that have helped to define our successful present and will drive our even more successful future: the New Tacoma Awards.

This year's nominees and winners were announced Friday at the Chamber's quarterly City Center Luncheon:

Ghilarducci Award (recognizing successful new development, renovation, or beautification) - Prium Companies

Popham Award (recogning the individual that has done the most to build community) - Lisa Fruichiante (Grand Cinema promoter, underground artist, and community builder)

Union Station Award (recognizing leading companies or individuals that have built or sustained momentum for revitalization) - Jim Merritt (Merritt Arch)

Schoenfeld Award (recognizing exemplary performance--and pizzazz!--as a retailer) - Leroy Jewelers & The Art Stop

Nominees for each of these awards were also recognized:

Congratulations to all nominees and winners!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

'Go Local' PassPort Campaign--'Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard'

This afternoon is the much-anticipated kick-off for the 'Go Local' campaign, and the BIA is playing its part in this exciting effort to generate--you guessed it!--more "feet on the street" in downtown. Earlier this week, BIA crews installed colorful new banners commemorating the promotion at key intersections and along north-south arterials throughout the district.

The banners are the creative fruit of several individuals. Christina Kitchens, graphic artist for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, designed the banners. Marketing Chair Blaine Johnson helped develop and implement the overall program. BIA Maintenance Supervisor Jim Burgess and his crew installed the banners in record time. Thanks to all of them--and thanks to the BIA ratepayers--the streets are ready for all those feet!

The photo at right shows the Leadership Tacoma-Pierce County team that developed the Pasport program: Kitchens, Jean Smith from Venture Bank, David Printz of the gurus LLC, Donna Miller from Simpson Tacoma Kraft Company LLC, and Pam Brewer from Franciscan Health Systemsn (Carol Young of United Way was out of town when this photo was taken). The image currently on the BIA website commemorates the banner installation (no, it doesn't take that many people to install one banner!) with a bit of the "in your face" urban twist. Chamber staff and members of the Leadership Tacoma-Pierce County team participated in the shot.

The BIA installs banners for a variety of public purposes and to celebrate events, community efforts and historic milestones. To find out what it takes to have a banner installed, visit the BIA website.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Week to Remember!

Warm weather and longer evenings have returned--now it's time to get more feet on the street!

This Thursday is the kick-off for the Go Local! Campaign spearheaded by Patricia Lecy-Davis (she of the pink scooter) and that irrepressible bunch from Leadership Tacoma-Pierce County. It's also--and not coincidentally--the first day of the Tacoma Farmers Market. Both venues come together at 2:00 p.m. in Theater Square for a blast off!

The BIA is one of the sponsors for this program. We donated the banners that have been popping up lately on downtown's arterials.

This Friday is the day that downtown Tacoma recognizes those individuals, companies and groups that are making a difference. It's not another candidate forum--it's the fourth annual presentation of the New Tacoma Awards!

Over the past three years, the New Tacoma Awards have sparked excitement as the event has spotlighted outstanding achievers:
  • 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
This year's nominees were once again selected through a nomination process that involved the entire downtown community, with final selection made by a distinguished panel of judges. Find out who was nominated--and who won--at the luncheon this Friday.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's That Noise? It's the Sound of Clean Water

If you've been surprised by loud vacuuming sounds during the past week, it's because the City of Tacoma crews are cleaning the storm drain systems in the downtown area. The process involves sending pressurized water through the storm drains to remove sediment buildup in the pipes, after which a vactor truck pumps out the water and sediment, redirecting the mixture through the wastewater system for treatment.

Admittedly, this effort to stop sometimes century-old contaminated sediment from leaching into the Thea Foss Waterway is loud and annoying, but it's also necessary--and quite temporary. In an effort to get through the cleaning as quickly as possible and make the resulting noise and blocked lane inconveniences as painless as possible, crews are working long days and weekends to get the work completed by the end of September.

The efforts have already proven effective, as crews have seen results in the form of eliminating several sources of mercury and lead contamination linked to likely decades-old sediment. This surface water system cleaning is mandated by the Washington State Department of Ecology as part of ongoing efforts to keep contaminants out of the recently cleaned up Thea Foss Waterway, part of the Commencement Bay Superfund site.

Monday, May 07, 2007

15th St. Offramp Will Be Closed

The 15th St offramp--between ‘A’ St. and Dock St.--will be closed to traffic from Wednesday, May 9th, until the following Wednesday, May 16th. The ramp is being closed so a new sanitary sewer main line can be installed from the park area at 15th to the front of the ramp where it touches down onto Dock St.

Traffic control signage will be in place around the area along ‘A’ St., 9th St. and the Schuster Parkway to alert motorists of the ramp closure. The ramp closure is weather dependent and subject to change. For more information call the construction hotline (253) 591-5256 or visit the City of Tacoma's project website.

Friday, May 04, 2007

No Split on 'Split Use'

Take the Theater District, add a pinch of "entertainment district" (whatever that is), mix thoroughly with a broad group of stakeholders, season with robust discussion, and where do you end up?

As it turns out--the Theater District!

That's one of the conclusions reached by participants in Wednesday afternoon's meeting that focused on the problems and promise of the north end of the BIA. That area's brand--which, admittedly, could be promoted more thoroughly--is too much a plus to change.

That was really never the aim of the meeting, but several participants thought it was--the meeting was really about how groups with different hours, clientele and cultures might better work together. It turns out, attendees agreed, that everyone co-exists pretty well already.

A group headed by Patricia Lecy-Davis from Embellish Salon will attempt to define a better defined "pact" for how neighborhood residents, clubs, restaurants, bars and stores will use the sidewalks and other common spaces. Stakeholders were again encouraged to participate in the e-mail alert system, call police dispatch when needed and watch each other's backs.

Stakeholders will also continue to explore ways to discourage illegal and nuisance activities. Requiring clubs to close after 2:00 a.m. was a popular suggestion--and may be a good first step.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Written on...Tenement Halls"

"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls...and tenement halls," opined Simon & Garfunkel thirty years ago--then a revolutionary view of grafitti as artistic expression. That view is alive and well on the streets of Tacoma--especially after dark--and the first installment of City Arts' two-part series on grafitti provided a forum for "crews" of grafitti writers to talk about their "art".

The newest edition of the magazine, now available throughout town, provides an opposing view from the BIA and Safe Streets.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Split the Difference?

For many cities, the establishment of a vibrant downtown is seen as an end in itself. Lively downtowns, though, create a whole new set of challenges--including issues of policing and security; noise; litter and trash; gentrification and displacement.

Lively downtowns feature a mix of uses that are split amongst different sets of people throughout a twenty-four hour day. The same building may have office space that is used during the day, a restaurant that is bustling in the evening and residential lofts that are occupied overnight. Sidewalks provide outdoor seating and public facilities, venues for street vendors and entertainers; sidewalks are the stages upon which urban life is played out. These ever-changing uses and crowds make such split-use districts hubs of activity that can lead to urban vitality--and conflicts.

Along with this growth comes the inevitable “growing pains” as more people move into downtown and more empty buildings are refurbished into restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The BIA recognizes that accommodating the influx of residents living in close proximity to hospitality zones requires a more efficient process to sustain the economic and social benefits of hospitality while reducing the potentially negative impacts on public safety and residents' quality of life. This end can be pursued through imposition of new, stricter municipal regulations--like those the City of Seattle is currently considering--or through a collaborative effort of the impacted parties.

We prefer the later course of action; accordingly, we're hosting a meeting tomorrow afternoon to gather interested parties and begin the dialog:

Wednesday, May 2nd
3:30 - 5:00 p.m.
Pantages Center Lobby
The primary goal for this meeting will be to help local businesses, residents and property owners create standards and expectations to reduce conflicts, establish a more objective mediation process and develop support systems for hospitality businesses. This approach is in line with other recent initiatives, like the Blue Ribbon Task Force, that emphasize the need for “good neighbor” agreements supported by municipal code.