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 fa├žade 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 (enter "Downtown Plan" in the subject line).

1 comment:

  1. I think an effort to make Tacoma's downtown neighborhoods more pedestrian friendly is an excellent idea. Actually, most of the plans you talk about here seem to be beneficial to the neighborhood. The question I have is where is the money going to come from that will be needed to finance all of these improvements?