Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Love Tacoma at Upper Crust

Are you a Tacoma Lover?

If so, you're invited to join other Tacoma Lovers at Upper Crust Bistro & Bakery tomorrow, Wednesday, December 3rd at 5:30 PM.

Help us celebrate this Tacoma hotspot with some old friends and make plenty of new ones. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the intimate setting, fabulous food and great selection of wine and beer at this northend eatery. So come hungry and be prepared to sample some of the many treats from the menu, as well as learn about all the fun things Love Tacoma has planned for 2009.

While you're not required to RSVP, it would be nice to know how many people to expect. So, if you've recieved the evite please accept. If you're not on the evite list please let us know in the comments if you plan to attend.

Come ‘Love Tacoma’ at Upper Crust―we'll see you there!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Will Mixed Use Centers Get Complete Streets?

The term “complete streets” refers to streets and sidewalks that are designed, operated and maintained to enable safe and convenient access and travel for all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and people of all ages and abilities, as well as freight and motor vehicle drivers. This blog reported on the City's initial proposal for complete streets back in October.

Since then City staff has analyzed the opportunities and challenges of “completing” streets within Tacoma’s Mixed-use Centers, and is developing recommended streetscape guidelines for the City Council’s consideration.

A final draft report summarizing the findings and recommendations for complete streets in Tacoma’s Mixed-use Centers, is now under review by the City’s work group. The report incorporates in depth analysis as well as extensive input from city staff, partner agencies, interested groups and citizens. The project team will present the report to the City Council Environment and Public Works Committee on December 10th at their 4:30 pm meeting.

For more information or to view the project presentations to date, you can visit www.cityoftacoma.org/planning, then select MUC Complete Streets Guidelines.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two Trees for Tacoma

This year Tacoma will celebrate the holidays with not one, but two holiday trees.

HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING, Saturday, November 29th

This is a free community event. In efforts to document historical events at the corner of 9th & Broadway, a community group photo will be taken at the Annual Tree Lighting Event. Also, a guest appearance will be made by Santa Claus in the Pantages Lobby beginning at 4:30 p.m. Complimentary hot cocoa and cider will be provided by the Broadway Center.

Scrooge: The Movie Musical will be shown at 3:00 pm, before the tree lighting and after the lighting at 6:00 pm at the Pantages. Scrooge: The Movie Musical is an adaptation of the beloved Charles Dickens; novel, A Christmas Carol. Advance tickets to Scrooge: The Movie Musical are available now for $8, seating is general admission. Tickets may be purchased at the Broadway Center Box Office located on 9th & Broadway or by calling the Box Office at 253.591.5894. To purchase online at any time or for information about upcoming events visit www.broadwaycenter.org.

TOLLEFEST, Saturday, December 6th

Yes, there is something worth doing in Tollefson Plaza (besides skateboarding). Come to “Tollefest,” the first annual winter festival in Tollefson Plaza! It is presented by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber with special thanks to Rainier Pacific Bank, City of Tacoma Public Works Department, BCRA, and AA Party Rentals.

Come listen to the Center of Faith Church Choir, play carnival games, and watch the tree lighting at 4:15 p.m.! Admission is FREE, but we encourage families to bring canned foods and non-perishable items to donate to the Emergency Food Network. See you there!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dome District Stakeholders Comment on Sound Transit Plans

A committed group of business owners and community members concerned about the future of the Dome District has been meeting regularly over the past few months with the Sound Transit Design Team to review proposed designs of the Sounder comuter train extension from D Street to M Street.

For more information about the D to M Street Extension please visit the Hillside Development Council website

In Mid-November the citizens group sent the following memo to Sound Transit articulating their concerns about the process.

November 13, 2008

To: Sound Transit

From: Citizen of Tacoma

Re: Sounder Train, D Street to M Street Extension

Over the past couple of months a number of citizens have been meeting with the Sound Transit Design Team and City of Tacoma representatives for the design review of the extension of the Sounder Train from D Street to M Street. During this period a number of issues have been revealed which are summarized in this memo.

The issues and comments include:

1. The community and local groups defined a list of 6 general principles to consider in the design of the extension. These were submitted at the first meeting of the group. It appears that the Design Team and Sound Transit are not taking these general principles seriously. It is the strong recommendation that these “general guiding principles” become the committed “design criteria” for the project.

2. A number of key elements may have affected the intent of the “Term Sheet” that was signed by the City of Tacoma and Sound Transit last year. It is recommended that the City of Tacoma/City Council review this “Term Sheet” to determine if it needs to be revisited. The grades and impacts proposed by Sound Transit certainly seem to have changed a number of factors in the agreement.

3. The design seems only to respond to the rail needs, whereas the primary design issue needs to be the people affected by this extension through the emerging urban area.

4. Meeting notes were taken by a Sound Transit scribe and these notes were to be converted to minutes of the meetings. The first meeting minutes were submitted to the group at the second meeting with no prior review. Before the third meeting the citizens reviewed the minutes and responded to a number of erroneous statements in the minutes. To date:

a. The first meeting minutes have not been submitted to the group with corrections noted by the citizens (see attachment).

b. No minutes of the second and third meetings have been distributed.(The minutes were received by email midday today so there is no time to review the minutes prior to the meeting.)

5. The tenor of the meetings has not been consistent:

a. At the first meeting the Sound Transit design team wanted to rush to design judgment and have the citizen group’s blessing on what Sound Transit was presenting. The citizens distributed the “general guiding principles” and a couple of diagrams suggesting that these principles should be the basis of design.

b. The second meeting seemed to be an attempt by the Sound Transit design team to be sensitive to the citizens’ design issues. The dialogue was somewhat encouraging.

c. The third meeting turned the discussions 180 degrees. The presentations were blunt responses to the needs of the rail, with impacts to grades and streets being more serious than previously thought. The Sound Transit design team did not appear to be working toward a people/urban friendly solution.

6. This memo is the results of a number of community gatherings since the last Sound Transit design team/citizens meeting.

7. A number of key questions have surfaced:

a. What should be done about the closing of A Street and what is the mitigation?
b. Why is South C Street now being closed?
c. Why are the potential problems of the at grade crossing at East D Street not being addressed d. What should be done at Pacific Avenue? The group is now told that Pacific Avenue will be lower almost twice as far as indicated at the time of the Term Sheet.

8. There may be other considerations that need to be addressed in this project:

a. Should more grade separations be considered? (i.e. A Street, C Street)
b. What about the impacts of the trains through the rest of the City as it moves through South Tacoma? Recent articles have pointed out some serious concerns about safety along the entire route.

Action Steps that Citizens believe need to be taken:

  1. The City of Tacoma needs an independent “rail specialist” and independent “urban design team” to address the concerns of the City and the community that are not high priorities in the design solution by Sound Transit.
  2. Sound Transit needs to provide approved minutes of all the meetings, with the first draft of the minutes well in advance of the next meeting day.
  3. The three tiers of meetings that are outlined in the “Term Sheet” need to be coordinated. Information from the “Project Management Team” and the “Executive Oversight Committee” need to be transmitted to the Design Team citizens group. Perhaps a citizen of the City needs to be represented on these committees.
  4. Information with complete backup data needs to be shared early with all participants so that consensus can be achieved with clear understanding.

The citizens believe that a collaborative approach that really addresses the impacts on the urban area and the quality of life for its community can be achieved. We just need to reorder the priorities.

1. General Guiding Principles
2. Meeting #1 Minutes with citizen comments in red

End of Memo.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Extending the Sounder to Lakewood…Why You Should Care

Although there isn’t much for Pierce County in Sound Transit’s recently passed Proposition 1, Sound Transit construction is headed our way. The proposed extension of the Sounder Commuter line through the Dome District and on to Lakewood will define how the Dome District develops in the years to come.

Although it may not be readily evident, the underutilized Dome District has great potential to redevelop into an active, exciting urban neighborhood on par with Portland’s Pearl District and Vancouver’s Yaletown. Our Dome District is at the nexus of multiple transportation corridors linking the north and south Puget Sound. Amtrak, Sounder, Link light rail, freight rail, Tacoma Dome station park and ride for local and commuter buses, ramps for the I-705 and I-5 freeways and the connection point to the long awaited Water Ditch and Prairie Line pedestrian and bike trails all connect through the District.

Currently, hundreds of people pass through and nearby the Dome District daily, creating a great transit oriented development opportunity; if only we create an urban environment that attracts these would-be customers and residents to stay, shop, live and play. The decisions made in the near future about the Sound Transit extension will set the path for how the Dome District can and will develop in the future.

The D to M street track and signal improvement alignment designed by Sound Transit will send the Sounder through the heart of the Dome District at-grade, with the exception of a raised grade-separated crossing at Pacific Ave. According to Sound Transit, the challenging topography of the Dome District combined with the grade limitations and sightline line requirements for both vehicles and trains restrict the design of the route. Consequently, the proposed $6 million project will bi-sect existing parcels, close South ‘C’ and ‘A’ Streets, define the route by which the Water Ditch Trail enters downtown Tacoma, and create at grade railroad crossings at East ‘D’ and East ‘C’ Streets.

Ultimately, project will redirect intercity passenger trains between Tacoma and Nisqually from the circuitous BNSF freight line along the coast to a passenger oriented inland route. The new routing will enable WSDOT to operate two additional round trip Cascades trains from Portland to Seattle and Sound Transit’s Sounder to extend service to Lakewood. The project will reduce travel time by 6 minutes between Portland and Seattle as well as avoid freight traffic interference through two single-track tunnels and port activities along the current route. Ultimately, Amtrak services will relocate to the newly constructed Freighthouse Square station in Tacoma providing direct access to Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail, and Link light rail to downtown Tacoma.

Given these benefits, is the proposed design of this project really worth sacrificing the potential transit orient development of the Dome District into an active urban environment?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Buses to Replace LINK During Filming

A film crew will shut down Commerce Street between S. 15th and S. 17th Streets on Friday, November 21, 2008. The time frame the production coordinator has given is 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. However, Pierce Transit suspects the closure may occur as early as 1:00 p.m.

Tacoma Link will not be able to operate while during the shoot, so Pierce Transit will provide the Link Service (using Sound Transit buses) during this event. The PT operated Link service will serve all of the regular station stops except for the stop at Pacific Avenue at S. 19th (UW). For this stop, passengers may catch the Link Bus at temporary stops located at the regular fixed route bus stops both directions on Pacific Avenue. There will be large banners for the temporary Link stops at each location. In addition, there will be a temporary stop located westbound on S. 25th Street just before the Link Bus will turn right on to Pacific Avenue as it heads in to downtown Tacoma.

The PT operated Link service will resemble the regular Link service schedule. And, just like Link, the “bus service” will be free.

We don't know what is being filmed...do you?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Planning for Tacoma's Future at the City Center Luncheon

Make your lunch hour count by coming to the City Center Luncheon, THE place to find out about the plans that are shaping Tacoma's future. The City Center Luncheon is a quarterly event organized by the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber of Commerce.

What: City Center Luncheon - “Planning for Tacoma ’s Future”
When: Friday, November 14, 11:30 a.m. (registration), 12:00 p.m.– 1:15 p.m. (program)
Where: The Tacoma Club 1201 Pacific Ave., #1600

Sponsored by Frontier Bank

Presentations at the Luncheon include:
  • Downtown Plan Update / City of Tacoma - Ryan Petty and Peter Huffman
  • UWT Master Plan Update / University of Washington Tacoma – Milt Tremblay
  • Update on Paid Parking Research in Downtown/ Parking Implementation Committee – Marty Campbell
  • Commuting Options for Downtown Businesses / Tacoma Pierce County Chamber– Jessica Holden
  • Plans for the Luzon Building Renovation / Gintz Group – Karsen Keever
  • Introducing Tollefest - a winter festival in Tollefson Plaza / Tacoma Pierce County Chamber – Joanne Buselmeier

Register by visiting the Chamber's Website or call Janice Hutchins, 253.627.2175, janiceh@tacomachamber.org

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Complete Streets: What They Are and Why We Need Them

A national movement is gaining momentum calling for “complete streets” that are designed for all types of users of all ages and abilities, pedestrians, cyclists, transit, trucks, cars, wheelchairs, skateboarders etc.

In addition to accommodating all users, complete street designs incorporate landscaping, trees and other features which provide both aesthetic and functional benefits, ultimately creating a sense of place that attracts all the users it was designed for.

The City of Tacoma is currently engaged in a study to incorporate complete street principles in the 16 Mixed-Use Centers. Tacoma’s Mixed-Use Centers are areas (primarily the neighborhood business districts) that are planned for high density housing, commercial revitalization, pedestrian friendly development and frequent transit service.

A number of recent planning processes have highlighted the benefits of and need for complete streets including Angelou Economics economic development strategy, the Downtown Plan Update, Destination Downtown, the Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan, and the Green Ribbon Taskforce.

The complete streets study identifies four street typologies, each with their own characteristics and uses. For more information on preliminary findings and designs here.

Main Streets (think McKinley, Proctor and 6th Ave.): High density people intensive retail uses oriented to the street. Street design emphasizes walking and highlights transit and bike access while promoting traffic calming. Two lanes streets (25 mph), short blocks with generous sidewalks.

Avenues (think S. Tacoma Way, S. 19th and Portland Ave): Commercial, office and mixed uses with buildings oriented to the street and parking in the rear. Street design emphasizes mobility and balances safety and service for all modes. Three to five travel lanes (35 mph) with on-street parking. Encourage mid-block crossings with medians and pedestrian islands on longer blocks (500’-600’).

Transit Priority Streets (think Tacoma Ave., Division and Pacific): High density people-intensive uses. Mixed use buildings oriented to the street. Street design promotes frequent transit service (bus and streetcar) and a high quality pedestrian environment with curb bulbs and regular pedestrian crossings.. Two shared travel lanes (25mph) with on street parking where appropriate. Bikes are accommodated on parallel streets.

Urban Residential Streets: Primarily Multifamily residential uses with limited commercial/ mixed uses. Street design promotes ‘livable streets’ with wide sidewalks, public art, seating, pedestrian scale lighting, attractive landscaping, bike lanes. Two travel lanes with slow travel speeds. Angled or parallel parking on street for visitors, residential parking in nearby lots/garages.

The purpose of the complete streets study is to inform a City Council policy discussion of the opportunities and challenges in Tacoma. The project will develop guidelines for complete streets that, if approved, would be used to direct future street improvements within the Centers.

California's Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Complete Streets Act of 2008 (pdf) into law on September 30. The law requires cities and counties statewide to incorporate complete streets when updating their general plans. Learn more at http://www.completestreets.org/

Friday, October 17, 2008

City Leaders Bike to Work

City Council members, Planning Commissioners, and Public Works staff biked to work together this morning. Members of the Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club joined the ride, as well as local media, Chamber and City staff. The event was organized by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and the City’s mobility staff and aimed to encourage policy makers (and stripe painters) to experience first hand what it’s like to ride on Tacoma’s streets.

Nearly 25 riders met in Proctor, East Tacoma, and near the Scott Pierson trail off of Union during rush hour this morning. All three groups rendezvoused at the Tacoma Municipal Building, where riders faced perhaps one of the biggest challenges of the morning: Where to store the bikes.

These “uh-oh” moments were just what organizers had hoped for, and as participants chatted over breakfast, the conversation was rich with more observations and insightful perspective on how Tacoma can become a more bike-friendly city.

Here are some of the themes of what people noticed and suggested:
  • Road conditions were inconsistent and often dangerous. Riders often have to make sudden decisions about how best to avoid potholes, which is particularly tricky and unsafe when there are vehicles nearby (driving and parked). The danger factor of potholes and other wear and tear – and whether people even notice them – often depends on how many wheels you have underneath you.
  • Bulb outs are great for pedestrians, but not always for bikes. Unless they are incorporated into the street design properly with all transportation modes in mind, these devices aimed to improve walking can be detrimental to biking.
  • We need better signage for what we do have. Even when there were trails or bike lanes, it was hard for newer riders to know how they connected.
  • The Pierce County Bike Map needs help. Badly. Commuters also need a bike map that focuses on downtown and residential areas. Connecting modes (like public transit) is also necessary, especially for those of us looking for ways to get out of downtown without climbing Tacoma’s treacherous hills.
  • Vehicles behave differently when there is a herd of bikes. Let’s be honest: with 7-8 riders and lots of reflective clothing, we were pretty hard to miss this morning. When you’re a lone cyclist, it can be trickier to know how to behave in traffic and bike predictably (read: safely).

On that note, the overarching call to action for the morning was the need for not only adequate biking infrastructure, but appropriate education for cyclists and motor vehicle drivers. Casual and avid riders alike emphasized that the instances in which they felt the least safe were when they either didn’t know how to behave as a cyclist or when cars behaved unpredictably around them. Becoming a city that encourages biking as transportation, recreation, and fitness means that we need to adjust our collective mindset and behaviors to be predictable, legal, and safe as we build better biking amenities.

This is certainly only the beginning of the conversation, and it is an imperative one for Tacoma residents to be a part of. Talk your City Council and City Staff about biking in Tacoma. Encourage them to keep these comments and issues in mind as they consider a Bike and Pedestrian master plan next year.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't Miss the Tour of Urban Livng This Weekend

Tacoma's downtown skyline is changing daily with the development of chic condominiums, stylish town homes and trendy apartments, and the annual Tour of Urban Living will be your chance to get inside 12 of these properties and be a part of the action!

This year's Tour of Urban Living will take place THIS WEEKEND, October 11th and 12th from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

This free, self-guided tour promises to highlight the best that downtown Tacoma has to offer. Tour the urban lifestyle that includes Tacoma's world-class museum row, fabulous eateries, revitalized waterfront, eclectic shops, and the free Link Light Rail that will get you there.

Start your tour at the Pantages Theater. Stop by, pick up a map, grab some coffee and start your walking tour. There will be a guided tour of the Historic Pantages at noon both days.
We hope you'll join us! Here's more information:

Download the 2008 Tour of Urban Living Brochure
Look at Properties for Sale or Lease to view individual property contact information and website links
Get your Relocation Guide
Find out about Housing Tax Incentives

Filming in the Post Office Closes A Street

A permit issued to film in the old courthouse above the Post Office on A Street will close A street and restrict parking in the area from 10/13-10/22.

During this time:
  • Court A will be closed to traffic
  • There will be limited parking around the Post Office. The principal exception will be on the east side of A Street
The film crew will move in props and cameras on Monday, 10/13, all the large trucks, gondolas (with lights) and generators will be parked fro the duration of the filming on the streets adjacent to the Post Office.

All filming will occur inside the building. Filming itself will be on the third floor, so access to postal services and boxes should not be impacted.

Questions or Comments? email or call Nancy P. Grabinski-Young, Economic Development Supervisor, Tacoma Community & Economic Development Department 253.591.5394.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Downtown: On the Go! kicked off to a great start

The Downtown: On the Go! campaign kicked off Wednesday in Tollefson Plaza as downtown commuters gathered during their lunch hours to learn how they can (and why they should) Reinvent their Commutes. Despite whether you caught the hubbub in the plaza, you may have seen new billboards and ads on buses with this logo popping up around town in the last few weeks.
Downtown: On the Go! is a collaborative effort between the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, City of Tacoma, Pierce Transit, and Pierce County aimed at reducing traffic congestion in Tacoma and addressing parking challenges downtown by encouraging commuters to walk, bike, take the bus, and share rides instead of driving alone.

Wednesday's kickoff featured a range of transportation resources, from a newly decorated Pierce Transit bus to bicycle clubs and shops, information on trails and city plans in Tacoma, and even a water bicycle.

This fun event was even more enjoyable thanks to what looks to be the last day of sunshine in a while. The Harmon and Hub restaurants provided lunch, and Blackwater Café and Mad Hat Tea treated attendees to their great brews of coffee and tea. The Joe Baque trio from Olympia provided music, and one of Frost Park’s finest chalk artists livened up the cement with transportation-related cartoons. There were no SOVs, of course. Commuters won great prizes, and many signed up to begin logging their new commutes to be entered into drawings to win great prizes – you can too by visiting http://www.piercetrips.com/.

This isn’t the last you’ll see of Downtown: On the Go! – we’re just gearing up. If you are interested in how you or your business can reduce your commute trips or set up a Commute Trip Reduction program for employees, contact Jessica Holden at the Chamber (jessicah@tacomachamber.org, 253.627.2175).

It’s great for businesses, employees, and Tacoma.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Downtown Plan Emphasizes: Vitality, Sustainability, Healthy Economy and the Arts

The Downtown Plan Update was presented at a public information session last Wednesday. The Update builds on the Destination Downtown Plan, while focusing on four primary visions for downtown: A Balanced, Healthy Economy; Achieving Vitality Downtown; Sustainable City; City of the Arts. These themes sound good, but what do they really mean for Tacoma?

A Balanced, Healthy Economy
The goal of this theme is to build on existing efforts to create downtown as a major employment, economic and cultural center developed around world-class companies. This will be accomplished by fostering an entrepreneurial culture for businesses particularly in the target sectors of:

  • Business and Professional Services
  • Creative Arts and Design
  • Financial Services
  • IT and Software Design
  • Trade and Logistics Services

The Plan calls for efforts that focus investment and redevelopment in the international financial services area (north end of downtown), the commercial core (between Tacoma Ave, Cliff Ave, S. 15th St. and S. 7th St.), and the Brewery District (south end of downtown).

The Plan also calls for implementing a comprehensive parking management strategy in downtown. This means developing a paid parking (on and off street) system that integrates with other viable transportation alternatives (biking, transit and walking among others).

Achieving Vitality
Essentially achieving this vision requires flexible regulations and design guidelines to encourage recognizably unique and desirable areas in downtown. This vision seeks to apply livability criteria, like walkability, access to adequate sunlight on the street, attractive and pedestrian scale façade treatments to building designs. This effort will help ensure that downtown buildings intentionally create and define a sense of place rather than hamper it. Improving perceptions of downtown safety, integrating activities and plans with UWT and striving to preserve the historic character of downtown are other components of this theme.

Sustainable City
Emphasizing sustainability in downtown, means facilitating a coordinated approach to economic, environmental and social considerations. To achieve these diverse goals the Plan makes a number of diverse recommendations to encourage sustainability in downtown:

  • Plans for future housing should consider walking and high capacity transit and distances to employment centers.
  • Strive to create a family friendly downtown by planning for amenities that attract and benefit all ages.
  • Consider connections to adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Develop an urban agriculture or community garden program to increase access and knowledge of fresh foods.
  • Provide more alternative to driving alone into and around downtown via complete street designs that provide for walking, biking, transit riders and other non-car centric forms of transportation.

City of the Arts
This final vision builds off the City’s two established art clusters, the Theater District in the north and the museum area in the south end of downtown. Establishing the creative arts and design as a target sector for Tacoma helps to brand Tacoma as a desirable urban environment with a high quality of life. To build this cluster the Plan recommends the following efforts:

  • Establish a public-private partnership to assist the burgeoning creative class
    Support and incentivize artists to move downtown .
  • Fund and support public art.
  • Continue to revitalize the Theater District.
  • Formulize a master plan for a 15th Ave. “Glass Walk” to high light public art in downtown.
  • Create a post-secondary design curriculum at SOTA and UWT.

For more details on these visions for downtown Tacoma go to the City of Tacoma’s downtown plan website.


The Planning Commission will conduct a Public Hearing on October 1, 2008, at 5:00 p.m. to receive testimony on the proposed Downtown Plan Element of the Comprehensive Plan. The hearing will be held in the Council Chambers, 747 Market Street, Tacoma. Written comments may be submitted through October 10, 2008, via (a) U.S. mail to Planning Commission, 747 Market Street, Room 1036, Tacoma, WA 98402; (b) FAX to (253) 591-2002; or (c) e-mail to planning@cityoftacoma.org (enter "Downtown Plan" in the subject line).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What’s In Store for Downtown Tacoma? Find Out Tonight

An information session on the Downtown Element of the Comprehensive Plan will be held TONIGHT (September 24th), at 5:00 p.m. to provide an opportunity for interested citizens to learn more about the Downtown Plan Update and ask questions.

The City has been working with VIA Architects to update the Downtown Plan. The Plan is a component of Tacoma’s Comprehensive Plan, which is developed in compliance with the Washington State Growth Management Act.

The Downtown Plan has not been updated since 2001. Downtown has changed considerably since then including new housing, the development of the convention center, museums, offices and the LINK light rail corridor. This draft update considers the research and recommendations proposed by Angelou Economics in the recently completed economic development strategy for the downtown.

The downtown plan update is intended to:

  • Coordinate land use, transportation, economic development and parking strategies
    Create a walkable downtown through application of best practices such as “complete streets”
  • Establish urban design principles with an emphasis on the public realm
  • Link economic vitality and environmental quality through an awareness of the regional effects of growth management, land use and transportation decisions
  • Promote partnerships to promote infill development and link land use policy and economic revitalization strategies
  • Foster collaborative relationships among the community, city and “city builders” and encourage property owners to think beyond the property boundary to achieve mutual benefit
  • Responsibly increase density while laying the groundwork for creating a high quality environment and retaining Tacoma’s character

The Planning Commission will conduct a Public Hearing on October 1, 2008, at 5:00 p.m. to receive testimony on the proposed Downtown Plan Element of the Comprehensive Plan.

Both meetings will be held in the Council Chambers, 747 Market Street, Tacoma.Written comments may be submitted through October 10, 2008, via (a) U.S. mail to Planning Commission, 747 Market Street, Room 1036, Tacoma, WA 98402; (b) FAX to (253) 591-2002; or (c) e-mail to planning@cityoftacoma.org (enter "Downtown Plan" in the subject line).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reinvent Your Commute in Tollefson Plaza on Oct 1st

Join fellow downtown commuters, as we kickoff the "Downtown: On the Go!" campaign, a collaborative effort by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, the City of Tacoma, Pierce Transit, and Pierce County aimed at reducing traffic congestion and parking challenges in downtown Tacoma by getting commuters, students and residents onto buses and bikes, walking, and sharing rides instead of driving alone.

WHEN: October 1st, 11am-2pm

WHERE: Tollefson Plaza

This will be a fun event with lots of transportation resources for commuters, residents, students and employers including lunchtime vendors, prizes from local shops, free bus passes, games, live music, and more.

Here are some of the opportunities and activities available to you in Tollefson Plaza on October 1st:

  • Get lunch from local food vendors – receive $1 off just for coming!

  • Sip coffee or tea from Mad Hat Tea Company and Blackwater Coffee

  • Listen to the Brazilian jazz of Olympia music group, Ocho Pies

  • Learn about commute options: Transit, Carpool, Vanpool, Walk, Bike

  • Pick up the new downtown walking map

  • Tour the Pierce Transit Vanpool, Bus and Bus Plus vehicles and practice putting a bike on the front bus rack

  • Talk to Vanpool riders and learn a new way to get to work

  • Play games to win prizes from local vendors, including free monthly bus passes

  • Give input on downtown plans with VIA architecture

  • Learn how businesses downtown are encouraging alternative transportation options and how your business can create a transportation plan

  • Sign up for piercetrips.com to begin logging your commutes, entering to win great prizes, and calculating cost and pollution savings

  • Give us your input on a car-sharing survey and receive a two-for-one cupcake coupon for Hello, Cupcake

  • Practice your chalk skills as you explore the art of transportation

  • Pick up a Pierce County Bike Map and learn new routes to ride

  • Plus: Special prizes and information especially for UWT students, including the chance to win a Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit bundle if you sign of for the new student version of piercetrips.com


Monday, September 15, 2008

Tacoma Downtown Parking Survey Needs Your Input

Make your voice heard. Fill out the Downtown Parking Survey right now!

Parking is vital to the success of Tacoma’s downtown. The City of Tacoma is engaged in a project to examine current parking conditions and explore future solutions, including paid on-street parking.

As an early step, the City wants to capture the views of downtown employers, employees, residents, students and visitors in the central business district. Please provide your assessment of the current situation, and your ideas about effective parking management strategies for the future.

Please take a moment to complete the survey by September 26.
The survey is available on-line at www.barneyandworth.com/tacoma.

Spread the word, and encourage your business neighbors and coworkers to respond to make this survey as representative as possible.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Towers on the Foss Clear Another Hurdle

In a planning process that began in March 2004, the Washington State Department of Ecology recently approved an amendment to Tacoma’s Shoreline Master Plan that allows for 180 foot towers to be built on the west side of the Thea Foss, north of the Murray Morgan Bridge. The property in question is owned by SimonJohnson LLC who has proposed to build up to four mixed use towers on the site. SimonJohnson is interested in possibly providing space for residential, commercial and retail tenants in the development as well as providing for parking and recreational uses.

The approved height increase is conditioned on a number of details including; providing enlarged view/access corridors, maintaining an average distance of 100 feet between the tower portions of the development and developing 50% of the roof as usable recreation space. The amendment also reduces the height limit to 90 feet on the municipal dock site adjacent to the Murray Morgan Bridge, clarifies the design review responsibilities of the Thea Foss Waterway Development Authority, protect the view of Mt. Rainer from Fireman’s Park and clarifies the regulation overall.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Coming Soon… Pacific Avenue Construction

Roadway construction on Pacific Avenue between S. 17th and S. 25th Streets is scheduled to on Sunday, August 23rd. According to the City of Tacoma Public Works Department, this section of Pac. Ave. “desperately needs repair and is failing rapidly.”

The primary goal of the Pacific Avenue Improvement Project is to remove and replace both the base section and the asphalt surface of the street. The project will also repair sidewalks, curbs and gutters, where needed.

Constructions will take place between now and winter 2008 in the following stages:
1st Phase: 17th to 21st Street (west side)
2nd Phase: 17th to 21st (east side)
3rd Phase: 21st to 25th including 25th from Pacific to C Street (west side)
4th Phase: 21st to 25th (east side)

The Good News:

  • The construction work is scheduled to take place at night between the hours of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • No construction work will be done at the concrete intersections.
  • Angle parking will be maintained within the area during the day.
  • Sidewalks will remain open.
  • The City and contractor will work with businesses to accommodate delivery schedules.
  • No utility work will be done at this time since it was done when the Light Rail was constructed.
  • When the project is complete (scheduled for winter 2008) we’ll have a new road and nicer sidewalks

The Bad News:

  • The street will be torn up!
  • There will be less access to shops, restaurants and other businesses along this segment of Pacific Ave.
  • Road construction projects often create a noisy, dirty and inhospitable environment.
  • During construction times (9 p.m. to 7 a.m.) the road will be restricted to local and emergency vehicles only.
  • BIA sidewalk cleaning service along this segment of Pac. Ave. will be limited for the duration of the project.

The City of Tacoma Public Works Department is holding an Open House for residents and business owners to learn more about the scope of the work, the construction schedule and answer any questions about the potential impacts.

The Open House will be held on Wednesday, August 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St., Room 708.

For more information regarding this project, please contact Karrie Spitzer in Community Relations at karrie.spitzer@cityoftacoma.org or by phone at (253) 591-5790, or contact Dan Seabrands with Public Works at dseabran@cityoftacoma.org or by phone at (253) 591-5150.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tollefson Plaza Moves from Vision to Action

It is official: the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber have signed the contract for Tollefson Plaza that will have the Chamber manage the Plaza and its growth as the center for Tacoma’s civic life.

Bordered by the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, Courtyard by Marriot Hotel, Tacoma Art Museum, University of Washington Tacoma, and retail shops and restaurants, an activated Tollefson Plaza will tie together a multitude of interests into one high-profile hub of activity.

Funding for the project received an early supporter when Rainier Pacific Bank became the first to donate $10,000—an encouraging boost representing the significant value that activities in the Plaza will add to downtown.

Events anticipated to activate the space include: Friday lunch markets, big screen movie nights, annual holiday festivities such as a Holiday Tree Lighting and a New Year’s celebration, and a Harvest Festival, among other events. The addition of tables, chairs, and all weather covering along with other aesthetic improvements, will soon create a more inviting environment.

The Chamber is convening area stakeholders to discuss future details and strategies for the Plaza.

For more information contact Joanne Buselmeier, JoanneB@tacomachamber.org

A Reason to Come to Tollefson Plaza…Showcase Tacoma

Showcase Tacoma, a multi-disciplinary arts experience takes place in the heart of downtown Tacoma next Friday and Saturday, August 8-9, 11am-9pm.

This 3rd annual event features the exploding local and regional arts scene! Enjoy visual and performing art exhibits and demonstrations, art installations, and performance activities for people of all ages!

Here’s what you can expect:

Awesome music for all tastes: The live music on the Main Stage will include indie rock, jazz, blues, and performances from some of the best high school musicians. The Helio Sequence is headlining on Friday night and has proven to be quite the draw! Before that, you can check out the Iron Artist competition at the Tacoma Art Museum.

Thought provoking poetry: On Saturday Washington State Poet Laureate Sam Green will be reading with special guests. The literary component has exploded this year, so if that is your scene there are readings galore throughout the event.

Art to buy and make: Indie craft artists will be selling unique wares. Try your hand at chalk drawing, ceramics, puppetry, knitting, and even break-dancing. There will broad range of activity and art forms represented from contemporary art installations to little ballerinas.

Good Food: The food and beverage are provided by all our local downtown (predominantly) restaurants/vendors: Pacific Grill, the Harmon/Hub, Maxwell’s Speakeasy, Two Koi, NW Popcorn (great ice cream), Kenya’s Italian Ice, Hot Dog Rod, and Cutter’s Point Coffee.

For more information check out the Metro Parks website here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Broadway LID Phase 2 Begins Early

Phase 2 of the Broadway Local Improvement District (BLID) will begin July 28th, three months ahead of schedule.

Business owners had previously been told that improvements on Market Street, between South 9th and South 7th Street, would begin in October. Instead, starting next week, Wm. Dickson Co. will begin work on Phases 1 and 2 of the BLID concurrently. This work will include utility upgrades, sidewalk repairs and other streetscape improvements.

The contractor and the City chose to move forward on Phase 2 sooner than planned to take advantage of the dry summer weather, which is generally ideal for street work. Also, by doing Phase 1 & 2 simultaneously, the project timeline will speed up 1 to 3 months, with a winter break. (At no additional cost.)

Additionally, according to the City’s project website, moving forward on Phase 2 now will allow streetscape improvements to be made at the same time as the storm drain work, eliminating the need to tear up the street more than once. Was the plan really to dig up the street twice!?

This schedule change will mean more traffic restrictions along Market Street between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Also, all on street parking will be eliminated from the work area.

Friday, July 18, 2008

WANTED: Comments on Wayfinding Sign Designs

On Thursday representatives from Rusty George creative presented two new concepts for wayfinding signage in downtown. The intention of the signs are to more effectively direct visitors to Tacoma to sites, attractions and areas of interest in downtown Tacoma and other business districts.

The design of the signs is based a few guiding principles:
  • Use established best practices for effective signage (Font size and type, arrow shape, ADA needs)
  • Simplify and prioritize information
  • Be consistent
  • Information should be logical, visible and easy to follow
  • Colors, words and symbols should compliment not compete
The new concept designs will be presented to the Economic Development Committee on August 29th. Please review the designs here. We welcome and encourage your comments. Please email all comments to ChelseaL@tacomachamber.org

Monday, July 14, 2008

What's Happening with Wayfinding in Downtown?

Come Thursday, July 17th, 5:30pm-6:30pm to Room 248 in the Tacoma Municipal Building (747 Market Street) to find out.

Overtime many incomplete efforts have been made to provide signage directing visitors and residents to important and interesting sites, venues and attractions downtown. These efforts have left downtown with incomplete and mismatched informational signage.

The current wayfinding effort seeks to provide some uniformity and clarity to the existing wayfinding schemes downtown.

Please join us Thursday, July 17th, 5:30pm-6:30pm in Room 248 in the Tacoma Municipal Building (747 Market Street) to learn about and provide input on current wayfinding plans.

Monday, July 07, 2008

City Center Lucheon features Point Ruston, Urban Waters and Tollefson Plaza

The City Center Lucheon is this Friday! RSVP today!

Events and activities are heating up in downtown Tacoma this summer.
The City Center Luncheon,
Friday, July 11th, 11:30 a.m. to 1:10 p.m. at The Tacoma Club,
will showcase ground breaking events and opportunities in downtown Tacoma.

Topics include:

Center for Urban Waters ground breaking
Presenter: Jim Parvey, City of Tacoma
The Center for Urban Waters is a 56,000-square-foot office and laboratory building to be located on the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway. The LEED certified building, which is scheduled to break ground this summer, will house the City's Environmental Services Division labs and offices, University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) research labs, and an office for the Puget Sound Partnership.

Point Ruston development plans and timeline
Presenters: Mike Cohen, MC Construction & JJ McCament, McCament and Rogers
Point Ruston is the Northwest’s newest waterfront neighborhood. Point Ruston is planned as a comprehensive community that will include nearly 1,000 new residences made up of waterfront condominiums, townhomes, and single family homes, a four-star hotel, parks and public art, miles of waterfront walkways and a host of fine restaurants, nightlife, cultural events, and shopping.

Tollefson Plaza plans and programming
Presenter: Joanne Buselmeier, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce
Tollefson Plaza will hold Friday lunchtime concerts and food vendors—just in time to enjoy lunch outdoors in the Northwest summer. More activities and plans are currently in the works.

Showcase Tacoma, a multi-disciplinary arts experience
Presenter: Phedra Redifer, Metro Parks & Amy McBride, City of Tacoma
This 3rd annual event features the exploding local and regional arts scene! Enjoy visual and performing art exhibits and demonstrations, art installations, and performance activities for people of all ages! Friday and Saturday, August 8-9 at Tollefson Plaza in the heart of downtown Tacoma.

The cost of the event is $25 for members pre-paid and $30 for non-members pre-paid; corporate tables are available. To reserve your seat contact Janice at the Chamber, 253.627-2175 or janiceh@tacomachamber.org

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 19th is National Dump the Pump Day

As the price of gas tops $4.30 per gallon Pierce Transit is joining transit agencies around the nation to encourage non-transit users and transit regulars to change their commute for one day and try transit. That means hoping the bus or a train, sharing the ride in a carpool or vanpool, or using human power by cycling or walking.

To encourage participation in National Dump the Pump Day, June 19th, Pierce Transit will be distributing “I dumped the pump” stickers to riders at select transit centers throughout Pierce County between 6:30 and 8 a.m. on the 19th.

Many resources exist for people looking for alternatives to driving.

Try transit, you just might like it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The City Plans to Close "A" Street!...What?

No, the City of Tacoma will not be closing all of "A" Street in downtown Tacoma. However, I have heard a number of shocked, confused and concerned comments like this in the past couple weeks. Let me set the record straight.

Misinformed rumors of the "A" Street closure began in mid-May when the City announced plans for the long awaited Prairie Line Trail improvements. The Prairie Line railroad right-of-way, owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), runs from near South Tacoma Way to the Thea Foss Waterway and bisects the University of Washington Tacoma Campus.

The City has reached a proposed “win-win” agreement with BNSF in which the railroad company will trade the City a 20-foot wide strip of property within the Prairie Line right-of-way in exchange for the closure of the railroad crossing at "A" Street and Dock Street. The acquired land will provide a non-motorized trail link between the Thea Foss, UWT and amenities in downtown Tacoma. Another exciting feature of this proposal is the opportunity for an additional pedestrian bridge linking downtown to the Thea Foss (more details on this to come).

The rail crossing is commonly closed due to flooding and BNSF contends that the curve of the tracks at this location makes the crossing particularly dangerous for vehicles and pedestrians. Furthermore, the agreement states that the "A" Street crossing will not be closed until the new "D" Street overpass project (that provides access to Dock Street) has been operational for 90 days.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for June 17th, 5pm at the Tacoma Municipal Building.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

City Seeks State Funds for Downtown and Dome District Improvements

The Tacoma City Council has announced plans to pursue Local Infrastructure Financing Tool (LIFT) funds from the State of Washington. As part of the LIFT requirements the Council has proposed to designate downtown Tacoma and the Dome District as a Revenue Development Area (RDA).

LIFT is a variation of Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Although TIF is used in 48 states, the Washington State Constitution prohibits the lending of state credit, and thus the TIF tool. In other states TIF is a method for local jurisdictions to leverage future gains in property taxes to invest in current infrastructure improvements and other economic development initiatives. TIF harnesses the increase in property tax revenue from a growing and redeveloping area to repay bonds that financed the improvements.

Alternatively, LIFT is a community development tool that was approved by the Washington State legislature in 2006. LIFT allows selected local governments to take advantage of tax revenue generated by private investment in a designated RDA to make payments on bonds used to finance public infrastructure improvements. Specifically, LIFT provides up to $6 million annually in redirected state retail sales taxes to help pay for public infrastructure projects that are funded with at least an equal amount of local redirected property taxes. The redirected property tax must be comprised of new regular property tax revenues from new construction within the RDA.

If Tacoma is selected for LIFT funds, up to $1 million per year for 25 years could be invested in infrastructure projects in downtown and the Dome District. The City anticipates designing and constructing the following public improvements in the RDA:

  • Structure(s) to accommodate 1,500 parking spaces

  • Right-of-way and streetscape improvements including; streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting, landscaping and traffic controls

  • Utility infrastructure

  • Sustainable storm drainage

Total costs of the proposed improvements are estimated at $72.3 million. The City will invest approximately $45 million (62%) from its Parking Fund, the Real Estate Excise Tax, the Sewer Enterprise Fund, and local property taxes generated from new development in the RDA. It is anticipated that $14 million (19%) of Federal funds would be appropriated for this project. Beginning July 1, 2011, LIFT funds projected to be generated over 25 years would be used to repay a General Obligation Bond, which would yield an estimated $13.3 million (18%) in net proceeds. LIFT would be used primarily for parking infrastructure as well as right-of-way and streetscape improvements.

The City anticipates that the projected investment in public improvements will act as a catalyst to attract at least $400 million of new private investment in office development and the creation of approximately 2,000 well-paying jobs in international financial services, which is a key industry cluster for the City of Tacoma and the State of Washington, and other fields.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on this isue Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 at 5:30 pm at the City Council Chambers, 747 Market St., 1st floor. The public is invited to comment at the hearing or to submit written inquiries or comments prior to the meeting.

For further information, call or e-mail Bob Levin at (253) 591-5039 / robert.levin@cityoftacoma.org 0r Elly Walkowiak at (253) 591-5209 / ellen.walkowiak@cityoftacoma.org in the Private Capital Division, City of Tacoma Community & Economic Development Department.

The proposed ordinance may be viewed at www.cityoftacoma.org/RDA.

Monday, May 12, 2008

TONIGHT: Dan Burden Livable Communities Lecture

When: 7:00pm – 8:30pm; Tonight May 12, 2008
Where: UWT Carwein Auditorium (Keystone Building in the heart of the UWT campus)
Cost: FREE

Dan Burden is a nationally recognized authority on bicycle and pedestrian facilities and programs. Burden has spent the last thirty years developing, promoting, and evaluating alternative transportation and sustainable communities at national, regional, state, and local levels, and he is the founder of Walkable Communities, Inc. a non-profit consulting firm in Florida. Time magazine has identified Burden as one of the six most important civic innovators in the world, in recognition of his efforts to create better places to live, work, and play.

Burden spent today exploring areas of downtown Tacoma and will share his observations and insights tonight in a 90 minute presentation at the University of Washington Tacoma Carwein Auditorium. Burden’s free lecture to the public will include his thoughts on creating a sustainable urban environment in Tacoma based on improving the area’s livability and walkability.

Friday, April 25, 2008

BIA Security Contact Information

One of the charges of the BIA is to promote safety and security in downtown. The City of Tacoma Police and the BIA Security Team patrol the 84 blocks of the BIA between 6 a.m. and 3 a.m.. During these hours the Security Team also provides security escorts to anyone within the boundaries of the BIA.

To request an escort or to contact BIA security call (253) 383-1131

To contact the Tacoma Police Department’s Cops on Bikes call (253) 692-5891

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Urban Design Experts Consider Tacoma

This week the City of Tacoma has been fortunate to host two of the leading thinkers in Urban Design and Planning.

On Tuesday Danish Architect, Lars Gemzoe of Gehl Architects provided suggestions to the City Council, City staff and the public on how Tacoma can enhance its public spaces, particularly Tollefson Plaza. Gemzoe and his firm promote a people oriented design philosophy. They believe that creating a quality environment for people is paramount and must be considered before anything else in order to achieve a lively and sustainable public realm. In their planning efforts Gemzoe and his firm first considers the people that will use the space, next they consider the space itself and lastly they design the buildings. This philosophy and the “12 Quality Criteria” they advocate are crucial to successful public spaces.

In regards to Tollefson Plaza, Gemzoe suggested that the City start by looking at the Plaza from the larger perspective of how and what it connects to; paying special attention to a potential connection with the Thea Foss Waterway. Additionally, Gemzoe emphasized the need to activate the Plaza’s edges with well designed buildings that will frame the space and provide “eyes on the street.”

On Wednesday author and urban advocate, James Howard Kunstler spoke to a packed house at the Theater on the Square. In his lecture Kustler described his perspective on the global energy crisis, which he refers to as the “long emergency.” According to Kustler, this energy emergency can not be resolved, as many believe, through technological innovation. In the second half of the lecture Kunstler moved abruptly from oil to urban form.

In his thoughts on what makes a desirable urban environment Kunstler described strategies for activating urban spaces by paying thoughtful attention to the design and use of adjacent buildings. Similar to Gemzoe, Kunstler recognized that currently Tollefson Plaza is framed entirely by transportation uses. Promoting more active uses along some of the edges of the Plaza has the potential to draw more people to the space.

The advice of both experts is timely, as the City and citizens of Tacoma are currently faced with tough decisions about the form and function of our downtown. The decisions we make today about Tollefson Plaza, downtown parking and the Thea Foss (just to name a few) will have long term ramifications for how Tacoma evolves.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tacoma ACTS Promotes Green Business in South Sound

Monday morning at the Chamber’s annual Environmental Award Breakfast Stewart Young of BCRA launched the Tacoma Alliance for Clean Technology & Sustainability (Tacoma ACTS). Tacoma ACTS is a business alliance aimed at expanding the South Sound’s green economy. This new effort will:

  • Highlight and support green businesses in six environmental areas: sustainable design, clean energy and renewable fuels, energy efficiency, water conservation and treatment, waste management and recycling, and environmental protection and remediation.

  • Develop green businesses by providing educational opportunities relevant to green jobs and environmentally freindly business activities for both public and private sector organizations.

  • Advocate for the needs of green businesses to establish Pierce County as a leader in green industries. Work with policy makers, business owners and community activists to establish a cohesive agenda for incentives, regulations and policies that benefit and promote green business.

The alliance is currently recruiting members and community advocates. Stewart Young and Dale Anderson of BCRA, Jeff Stallings of Print Northwest and Joanne Buselmeier of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce are the founding members of the alliance. For more information on Tacoma ACTS or to find out how you or your business can join check out the website at http://www.tacomaacts.org/ or email info@TacomaACTS.org

Monday, April 21, 2008

The BIA Blog is Back

After a nearly two month long hiatus the BIA Blog is back.

For more than 22 years Paul Ellis has been the Chamber’s go-to-guy for issues that effect downtown and the Chamber Divisions in Fredrickson, Parkland, Spanaway and University Place/Fircrest. In March Paul embarked on a new endeavor in the Midwest, opening up a great opportunity at the Chamber. I was selected to take over Paul’s duties, including management of the BIA.

I am a native of Tacoma and Vashon Island and am thrilled to be back in Tacoma after three grueling years as a Seattle resident. I come to Chamber from the City of Seattle where I was involved with the South Lake Union Streetcar implementation efforts and Streetcar sponsorships. I previously worked in Tacoma as the Campaign Manager for Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, and served on the campaign staff of Congressman Norm Dicks.

I love Tacoma and am looking forward to providing a fresh perspective to the development efforts occurring here. In my new role I will expand on the Chamber’s efforts with the downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA), the Regional Access and Mobility Partnership (RAMP), and I intend to promote downtown transportation strategies that will benefit residents, retailers and visitors to Tacoma.

I attended high school at Charles Wright Academy in University Place and received my B.A. from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. I recently completed Masters degrees from the University of Washington in Public Administration at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs and in Urban Planning. My graduate studies focused on transportation policy and community development.

I am thrilled about the strength and commitment of Tacoma’s growing downtown community and am looking forward to working with all of you in the years to come. Please check back regularly for updates on downtown Tacoma and the BIA.

You can reach me at (253) 627-2175 x123 0r ChelseaL@tacomachamber.org

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Big Events Will Swell Downtown 'Feet on the Street'

The Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center has just released its list of upcoming large events its scheduled for downtown Tacoma area during the next three months. These events will have more than 1,000 attendees, many of whom will be eating, staying and shopping in the downtown area on the day(s) of their events:

March 8: Lee’s Martial Arts Open - 2,400 attendees
March 14 – 16: Remodeling Exposition 2008 - over 3,000 people during this three-day event
March 23: St. John’s Church Easter Service – 3,000 attendees
April 2: Snowmobile Sneak Peak Preview – 1,500 attendees
April 27: Ben Kaplan City of College Dreams National Tour – 2,500 attendees
May 2-4: NW Dive News – 2,500 people during this three-day event
May 9 & 10: Tacoma City Marathon – 2,000 participants

The BIA will continue delivery of its value-added services during each of these events. With all these additional "feet on the street," downtown stakeholders should plan on helping to put their best foot forward, too.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tollefson Plaza Management Contract Nearly Done

A licensing agreement between the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and the City of Tacoma to create a pro-active management entity for Tacoma's central public square is nearly complete--so much so that details were shared yesterday with members of the Tacoma City Council's Government Performance & Finance Committee.

As presented to city leaders--and yet to be approved by either party--the proposed license would have the following provisions:
  • The license allows the Chamber to be the “primary manager” of the Plaza, based on recommendations made in 2006 by the consulting organization, Project for Public Spaces, and also on Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square;
  • The Chamber intends to develop a schedule of ongoing activities in the Plaza to promote more foot traffic and increase the visibility of the Plaza for community uses, and will be programming the Plaza, managing relationships with public and private sector partnerships and marketing the Plaza to the public;
  • The City, including the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, retains the right to program the Plaza for events, and the Chamber also must allow use of the space for constitutionally protected activities;
  • The full-time City events coordinator that will oversee the event permitting process will be expected to coordinate with the Chamber on use of the Plaza;
  • The City will not pay a fee for the Chamber to manage the Plaza, nor will the Chamber pay the City a fee to use the Plaza--the Chamber’s services will be funded through fees, sponsorships, and other fundraising;
  • The agreement will be for a two-year term with two renewal periods allowed for a total of six years.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Go Local or Die!

Local Life Tacoma, Go Local Tacoma, and the Downtown Merchants Group will present a series of local charrettes called Go Local or Die. To insure the future vitality of Tacoma's principal urban neighborhood, residents, organizations, and businesses will gather to discuss the immediate and long term benefits from living a more local and community based life.

Both charrettes will feature local panel members, including Derek Young from Exit133.com and Suite133, Patricia Lecy-Davis of the Downtown Merchants Group, Kevin Freitas from FeedTacoma.com, Justin Mayfield from the Tacoma Farmers Market, Erik Bjornson of the North End Neighborhood Council, Amy McBride & Roxanne Murphy from the City of Tacoma, and Morgan Alexander of Tacoma Streetcar, Tacoma Works, and Historic Tacoma.

The charrettes will take place on February 26th and March 25th--both beginning at 6:00 p.m. They will be hosted by Jim Diers, the former Director of Neighborhoods in Seattle and author of the book Neighbor Power. These events are sponsored by Veritas Mortgage Group and will be hosted in their offices at 762 Broadway (next to Tully’s in the Bostwick Building). Appetizers will be provided by Veritas and admission is free, but space will be limited.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

BIA Presents Renewal Petition, 2008-09 Program

Directors and staff for the BIA today presented the Tacoma City Council with the ratepayer petition supporting renewal of the program for another ten years. During the public hearing and an earlier presentation to the Council's Economic Development Committee, ratepayers described the benefits of the program and outlined changes for the renewal period beginning May 1st.

Among the points made during public input presented to city leaders were the following:
  • Representatives from several of Tacoma's largest employers described how important the district's services are to maintaining their downtown worksites;
  • Boundaries will remain as they are under the current program but may be expanded to match the Destination Downtown footprint pending petition of property owners in the expansion area;
  • Residential properties will join offices and retail in the higher of two assessment rates, reflecting a growing demand for 24/7 service delivery;
  • Increased revenue will be directed to funding additional police patrols dedicated to the downtown area under a new contract being developed between the City and BIA.
City Council members also reviewed provisions of the 2008-09 rate, budget and work plan--the first year of operation under the renewal.

Both measures were adopted by voice vote of the Council--unanimously save for Marilyn Sticklund, who recused herself as a downtown property owner. The measures will have a second reading next Tuesday evening pending final adoption.

Friday, February 08, 2008

City Council To Hear BIA Renewal & 2008-09 Plan

Members of the Tacoma City Council next Tuesday will hear the first reading of an ordinance that would re-establish the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) for a 10-year period starting in May 2008 and continuing through April 2018.

Petitioners have requested renewal of the BIA for another 10 years for the purposes of providing enhanced security, maintaining and enhancing the appearance of common areas, providing professional management, planning and promotion, and providing similar programs and services. A public hearing on the re-establishment of the BIA and review of the 2008-09 rate, budget and work plan is scheduled to start at approximately 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, located in the Tacoma Municipal Building at 747 Market St.

On April 5, 1988, the Tacoma City Council established the BIA via Ordinance 24058 for a period of 10 years. The BIA was renewed for an additional 10 years in 1998 by Ordinance 26205.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Where is Downtown?

The new page on the City of Tacoma's website previewing the Downtown Tacoma Economic Development Strategic Plan states the following: "Every day, 40,000 employees work in downtown Tacoma..." This number seems too high to many who read it--what's the truth?

First of all, that number reflects the new, larger working definition for downtown--from Thea Foss to Hilltop and from the Stadium District to I-5. The 40,000 number was derived from Claritas, a syndicated provider of demographic information; City staff reviewed this provider's count--which actually was closer to 46,000--and took out obvious doubles, which dropped the total to 40,000.

This doesn't necessarily jibe with standard data sources, such as the population and employment data offered by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). The PSRC uses Traffic Analysis Zone (TAZ’s) data, which are supported by Employment Security and CTR information. The challenge for this data set is that it is not easily shaped to capture the working definition of downtown, so one would have to make several assumptions to arrive at a plausible number and may still be incorrect.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

City Reworks Design Standards

MAKERS Architecture & Urban Design is working with the City of Tacoma to develop a city-wide design review process for commercial, industrial, multi-family and multi-plat single-family construction.

In October, 2005 the Tacoma City Council passed Substitute Resolution 36685, expressing support for such a program. MAKERS will work with City staff and interested community members over the following schedule:
  • February 21st - March 10th: Conduct 3 meetings with neighborhood groups/residents to discuss concerns and goals related to future commercial and multi-family development
  • March 5th: Present design review options analysis to Planning Commission + discussion of preferred options
  • April 2nd: Present draft recommendation for design review process
  • July 1st: Draft design review ordinance language due
  • December: Adopt design review ordinance

Monday, February 04, 2008

Team Assembles to Push Commute Options

The big push is on to help downtown employees find new ways to get to work, reducing costs for development and spurring deployment of new commute options. A team of key staff people from the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, City of Tacoma and Pierce Transit have begun meeting to shape a program that will help reduce traffic congestion--or at least hold the line as employment rises--in downtown during the next year.

Portland consultant Rick Williams is helping this group develop and implement a comprehensive action plan that includes the folowing strategic steps:
  • Establish a Premier Partnership, made up of downtown's top private and public executives (a commitment made by the Chamber as part of its contribution to Project Destiny);
  • Assemble a downtown geocode--location in geographic space converted into computer readable form (a task for City staff with their extensive Geographic Information System);
  • Overlay infrastructure on the geocode and assess service delivery (a job for Pierce Transit);
  • Target marketing (cooperative effort by all three parties);
  • Reach agreement on transit & parking goals (a cooperative effort by all parties following successful completion of the other strategies).
Partners in this combined effort are looking for a new, jazzy moniker for this unprecedented alignment of business, government, and transit agency--GTEC doesn't cut it; neither does Destination Downtown Door-To-Door.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Consultants Seek Input on Downtown Strategic Plan

This week, a team of consultants from AngelouEconomics is conducting interviews, focus groups and visioning sessions with stakeholder groups to develop an economic development strategic plan for downtown Tacoma. The BIA Board of Directors participated in a focus group today. The Austin-based economic development consulting firm has been retained by the City of Tacoma to create a blueprint for increasing investment in downtown and providing more jobs to the region's residents.

The City is also looking for feedback from the entire community through online surveys. There are two brief surveys--one is for residents and another is for business owners.

The development of AngelouEconomics' downtown economic development plan will coincide with the development of the Downtown Comprehensive Plan headed by the City in partnership with VIA Architects and will review the long-range planning and zoning for downtown. The overall vision for downtown will be defined consistently for both plans and will be supported by a combined public outreach effort (interviews, focus groups, visioning sessions, online surveys). By integrating the two plans, the City of Tacoma hopes to ensure a robust and meaningful downtown strategic plan.

Community Fund Makes Sen$e--You Can Say That Again!

A small group of stakeholders celebrated the launch last night of Sound Community Initiatives, an innovative investment fund that promises to help revitalize low-and moderate-income neighborhoods while paying off big for contributors.

Sound Community Initiatives has been dubbed a "double botton line" fund promising healthy investment returns--the first bottom line--as well as jobs, amenities and strengthening of poor communities--the second bottom line. Over the past ten years, similar funds have been used to support more than $2 billion in commercial, retail, residential and mixed-use projects in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore and Miami. Sound Community Initiatives expects to pump as much as $360 million worth of development funding into five Puget Sound counties--including King, Pierce, Thurston, Snohomish and Kitsap. And fund developers expect it to be the first of as many as five such investment pools, with the potential to generate as much as $3.2 billion in development in the five counties. The Puget Sound will be the first region in the Northwest to benefit from such a program, thanks to three years of work by Martin Luther King Housing Development Association director Felix Flannigan and a group of local investors.

Local funds will be managed by Los Angeles-based investment group Kennedy Wilson, which services more than $8 billion worth of commercial and residential property. The firm also manages five real estate funds representing more than $2 billion in assets. Kennedy Wilson officials promise to share their development and investment expertise with local communities in addition to maximizing returns for investors.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Russell Hires Top-notch Public Affairs Rep

Russell Investment Group's announcement last week about hiring Patricia Akiyama to fill the position of Government and Community Relations Director is a welcome one. As community leaders move forward with Project Destiny, she is sure to be a key player for Russell.

Akiyama joins Russell after serving in similar roles for Quadrant Homes and the Weyerhaeuser Company; she also served as chief of staff for U.S. Senator Patty Murray for four years in the late 1990s and was senior staff coordinator for WA House of Representatives Co-speaker Frank Chopp.
Akiyama has a B.A. degree from the University of Oregon (Eugene) and is a graduate of Leadership Tomorrow, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s Alki Political Involvement Institute, and the Program for Senior Managers in Government at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
At Russell, Akiyama will focus on legislative issues, as well as relationship management with local and national lawmakers, administrative agencies, and industry associations.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Ups and Downs of City Center Development

Development in downtown Tacoma often proceeds in fits and starts, as revealed in the following announcements made this week:

  • The Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) is close to reaching an agreement with the State of Washington on purchasing the Rhodes Center--in part for the income it would generate as an office building. THA would retain the Court of Appeals, Labor and Industries, the Auditor’s Office and the Department of Transportation as tenants, and the agency would act more aggressively to fill some of the vacant commercial space. The purchase would include not only the old Rhodes department store building, but also another building on Market Street and the 530-space parking garage.
  • The Foss hotel project sought and won yet another delay from the Foss Waterway Development Authority;
  • Prium Companies now say they need a year’s postponement to buy land for a mixed-use office and residential project near the S. 21st St. bridge;
  • The Foss Harbor high-rise complex, north of the E. 11th St. bridge expects that getting the necessary approvals from the State of Washington could take another 14 months.
The BIA would welcome a new owner for the Rhodes Center. The State of Washington has opted out of paying the BIA assessment for the building.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Transit & Parking Recommendations Presented to City

Members of the Transit & Parking Advisory Committee, a stakeholder group organized by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, shared their most recent recommendations with members of the City of Tacoma's Economic Development Committee this past Tuesday. The committee, currently chaired by Marty Campbell, has successfully pulled together downtown leaders with City and transit agency staff to help identify and implement changes needed to make that complex system work better.

Campbell presented new paradigms for both parking and transit, leading into the committee's most significant recommendations:
  • Develop a downtown transportation plan that considers pedestrian, bicycle, carpool, vanpool, bus, rail, Flexcar and parking as coordinated elements of a strategic transportation system;
  • A more robust, employer-based transportation demand management (TDM) program should be pursued (i.e., Growth Transportation Efficiency Center and Destination Downtown Door-to-Door). This program will build momentum—augmenting current CTR programs that already promote use of excellent local and regional transit services—to promote awareness and utilization of commute options;
  • The City of Tacoma, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit and downtown stakeholders should institute a Downtown Transit & Parking Panel (implementation committee) to foster communication, facilitate collaborative decision-making among parking stakeholders, review parking and transit policies, provide a customer perspective and benchmark how well the system is meeting established criteria.

In response to questions from Council members, Campbell explained that the committee's recommendations closely parallel those of City Manager Eric Anderson, and he indicated that the committee is expanding its geographic scope and membership to give it the ability to act as a part of the implementation process.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Green Light or Yellow Light for Downtown Transit?

The Tacoma City Council is poised this evening to move forward on a resolution putting legs underneath City Manager Eric Anderson's parking & "mobility" program--now part of the Project Destiny initiative. Marty Campbell, recently elected chair for the Transit & Parking Advisory Committee, will be offering testimony at the meeting in support of this measure.

Downtown leaders can now be expected to focus attention on the transit portion of the program. One element sure to be discussed is the concept of a "fareless square" for transit riders, patterned after the program that has operated in Portland since 1975 (Seattle has a much smaller fareless zone with hours limited to 6:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.). After more than 32 years of operation, however, Portland's fareless square may be on the verge of severe cut-backs--and for what may be a surprising reason.

In response to recent security concerns, Portland's TriMet has outlined a new security plan as part of a multi-faceted strategy to improve safety at night throughout the transit system; one proposal of this plan would be to limit Fareless Square zone hours to 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Much of the disruptive and threatening behavior that has been witnessed on MAX occurs at night between downtown and the Lloyd District. The proposal is specifically targeted at passenger safety in the downtown core, and to substantially reduce the type of undesirable behavior that impacts system safety.

The Lloyd Transportation Management Association (TMA), which contributes funding to help pay for fareless service to Lloyd District, has sent a letter to TriMet objecting to both the rationale and the timeline for the decision limiting fareless square hours.

What implications might this decision have for a "fareless square" in downtown Tacoma? Will security concerns force Sound Transit--which is now extending Link's evening hours--to curtail free service on light rail?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Commercial RE Outlook Great in 2008, Chamber Told

Friday's sell-out City Center Luncheon presented a panel of positive proponents representing three high quality, signature projects currently under development in the city center:
The luncheon--a quarterly event put on by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber--provided a
virtual tour of each project, as well as providing each panelist a few minutes to prognosticate on the future of downtown real estate. The two photos above show before (left) and after (right) of the Atrium Court project.

Despite media talk about economic recession, panelists were bullish about the prospects for profit in downtown real estate in the coming year. Gintz--whose presentation was sub-titled "Great in 2008"--said "our company has reviewed the prospects for a recession and...we have chosen not to participate!"

Chamber President & CEO regaled the crowd with this pithy saying about the transition Tacoma has gone through vis a' vis downtown redevelopment:

For a couple of decades, we were "America's most tired city";
More recently, we have been "America's most wired city"; and
In the future, we can become "America's most admired city".

The Chamber’s quarterly City Center Luncheons highlight projects in the vanguard of downtown’s revitalization, introduce the people who are leading that process, and help delineate current trends and opportunities. This quarter's meeting was sponsored by Venture Bank.