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 and Suite133, Patricia Lecy-Davis of the Downtown Merchants Group, Kevin Freitas from, 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.