Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pictures from Tacoma’s Most Notorious Bathhouse

I recently had the opportunity to explore the old Turkish bathhouse that will soon function as a rain cistern, collecting water for Pacific Plaza’s green roof and to flush the building's toilets. The bath's size is 25 feet wide, 100 feet long and 9 feet deep - combined with a smaller concrete pool room below it, will hold roughly 190,000 gallons of water.

The bathhouse was originally built more than 110 years ago, and likely catered to loggers from Turkey, Russia and Sweden looking for an opportunity to “literally soak the dirt out of every pore.”
Later, the Turkish bathhouse developed a more checkered history. According to Michael Sullivan, local historian and principal of Artifacts Consulting, the bathhouse was owned during different generations by two of Tacoma's most notorious vice kingpins - Peter Sandberg and Vito Cuttone. Sandberg ran Tacoma's prostitution business at the turn of the century and Vito Cuttone, ran the Italian mob in Tacoma after the Second World War.

Dan Voelpel wrote a great article in the News Tribune about the Turkish bath back in December 2008. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it on the TNT’s site, so you’ll have to read it from the Seattle Times.)

Here’s what the bathhouse looks like today:

Steam pipe

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

12th and Pacific Hill Climb Gets a Facelift

The hill climb just north of Pacific Plaza at 12th and Pacific is slated for major improvements in conjunction with the Pacific Plaza renovation. The 12th and Pacific Hill Climb, which was once home to one of Tacoma’s notorious outdoor escalators is currently characterized by a wandering staircase and overgrown vegetation. Coupled with the Pacific Plaza construction, this hill climb (not unlike the others around town) is cold, dark and uninviting.

However, the planned improvements will provide a much needed pedestrian link between Commerce St. and Pacific Ave. The City and BLRB Architects have developed a plan to replace the stairway and plants with a design-to-suit retail building and outdoor courtyard as part of the Pacific Plaza redevelopment. A 15 foot wide stairway will be built where the cement catacomb that once housed the escalator now stands.

Plans for this project have included a number of community stakeholders. Public Art for the area is coordinated by the City’s Arts Administrator, Amy McBride. The owners of the adjacent building are working with local architect David Boe to design small improvements to their building that will promote plenty of watchful eyes on the stairway and courtyard. Lastly, The designs were reviewed by the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma Police Department and take into consideration Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) recommendations.

The designs were reviewed by the City Council’s Economic Development Committee last week. Look for construction of the improvements to begin soon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

America's Got Talent is Coming to Tacoma

Do you have talent?

“America’s Got Talent,” NBC’s hit series, will be holding auditions on April 25th and 26th at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center. This competition is from the same producers of “American Idol,” but unlike “Idol,” it’s open to talent of all kinds and to any age.

To register to audition and for auditioning tips contestants should go to or to the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Centers’ on-line calendar at

Expect traffic and parking challenges in Downtown on April 28th and 29th when NBC’s America’s Got Talent tapes live at the Pantages Theater.

The AGT crew will be loading in on Tuesday, April 28 and filming on location at the Pantages Theater on Wednesday, April 29, 2009. The Broadway Center anticipates there will be increased traffic and parking congestion near and around the pantages and in downtown Tacoma during these times.

If you’d like to attend one of the shows, tickets are FREE to the public and are only available online. Visit to register for your tickets today. Showtimes are 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. and each show will feature 60 pre-selected contestants.

Monday, April 20, 2009

City Center Lunch and New Tacoma Awards Draw a Packed House

The Pacific Grill Event Center was packed at noon on Friday with over 150 representatives from businesses across Tacoma. They came to see the Sixth Annual New Tacoma Awards at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s quarterly City Center Luncheon. The event drew a record crowd not only for the luncheon, but also for the Pacific Grill Event Center since its opening. Attendees also included Congressman Norm Dicks and his staff.

While the Luncheon generally focuses on what’s coming soon for downtown Tacoma, this spring version had the Chamber and Absher Construction presenting the 2009 New Tacoma Awards winners for the following four categories:

Ghillarducci Award - received by Hotel Murano,
recognizes successful new development, renovation or beautification. There were 13 nominees for this award.

Union Station Award – received by Gintz Group,
recognizes leading organizations, companies or individuals that have built or sustained momentum for revitalization. There were 6 nominees for this award.

Popham Award – received by Benjii Bittle,
Deputy Executive Director of the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. This award was named in honor of the late News Tribune Columnist Art Popham, and recognizes the individual that has done the most to build community spirit. There were 11 nominees for this award.

Schoenfeld Award – received by hello, cupcake,
recognizes exemplary performance and pizzazz as a retailer. There were 8 nominees for this award.

Attendees also heard about the future of the Lemay Car Museum and its downtown Tacoma economic impact, the future of Tacoma’s Farmer’s Markets, and the City of Tacoma’s bike Month activities in May.

Visit for more information or call Chelsea Levy, 253.627.2175,

Monday, April 06, 2009

Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber Commute Trip Reduction News
Downtown: On the Go! – Reinvent Your Commute

The Chamber is proud to partner with the City of Tacoma, Pierce Transit, and Pierce County to be a resource for your downtown business and employees' transportation needs, and to promote transportation efficiency and economic vibrancy downtown. This monthly newsletter keeps you up to date with Commute Trip Reduction activities downtown, ways we can assist you, and how you can get involved. – not just for prizes
You know that logging your non-drive alone trips enters you into prize drawings, and you’ve seen how your cost and pollution savings add up on your calendar. But you might not know that also helps us understand how commuters get around downtown and how we’re doing in helping reduce drive-alone trips. Downtown: On the Go! is funded by grants from the Washington State Department of Transportation, and they use to measure our efforts.

So whether you want to win great prizes, enjoy calculating your pollution and cost savings, or simply believe in what we’re doing and want to see more of it, please log those trips.

Did you know that Pierce Transit has more than 100 vanpools serving a variety of employers in Pierce County? Twenty of those vanpools serve downtown Tacoma. Vanpooling offers a safe and comfortable ride to work, saves fuel and operating costs for your vehicle, and helps reduce carbon emissions by eliminating single occupant vehicles on our roadways. Employees who vanpool enjoy a stress-free trip to work. It is a win-win commute solution for employees and employers alike! Learn more about vanpooling on Pierce Transit’s website

ORCA is Coming…
ORCA (One Regional Card for All) is coming soon to transportation agencies near you. For more information and the most current updates, please visit

FREE! April Bus Passes
Are you or your employees interested in trying out the bus this month – for free? The Chamber is excited to offer prospective downtown bus riders a monthly Puget Pass. Please contact Jessica at the Chamber if you are interested.

In honor of Earth Day...
Did you know that vehicle emissions are the largest contributor to air pollution in Washington? As you celebrate our planet, consider “greening” up your commute with buses, bikes, walking, and sharing rides. Maybe you want to pledge to simply reduce one drive-alone trip a week from what you do now. Maybe you know a friend or co-worker who you might help find a bus route, carpool with, or be a “bike buddy” for. Or maybe you’re a business that would like to reduce its carbon footprint. We’d love to help however we can, so be in touch. Small efforts from each of us make a big difference!

Bike Month
It's still a little ways off, but if the sunshine this weekend inspired you to dig out your two-wheeled friend, you'll be glad to know that May is bike month in Tacoma. Be sure to start thinking about your team for the Bike to Work Week Commuter Challenge (May 11-15). Keep on eye on for more information!

For more information about the Chamber's Commute Trip Reduction program, contact Jessica Holden:, 627.2175.