Monday, September 28, 2009

Transportation Forum This Thursday!

On Thursday, October 1st please join The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Transportation Choices Coalition, and other co-sponsoring organizations for a citywide Candidates’ Transportation Forum.

Because our transportation and land use policies have dramatic impacts on economic development, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, community health, and quality of life, these topics pose some of the greatest challenges facing Tacoma’s City Council. At this forum, candidates will respond to questions about the future of Tacoma’s transportation system (transit, bikeways, roads, parking, etc.) and related land-use implications.

The forum is open to the public. Transportation related questions for the candidates can be submitted prior to the event to juliap@tacomachamber.org.

EVENT INFORMATION ~
When: Thursday, Oct 1st, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Carwein Auditorium, Keystone Building - UWT

Please note: This forum is intended for the education of the public on candidates’ views on transportation and land use issues. It is not meant to endorse or support particular candidates. Invitations were extended to all candidates for Tacoma City Council and Mayor of Tacoma.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

City Center Luncheon Celebrates Life Downtown- Oct. 9th

It’s time again for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s quarterly City Center Luncheon.

When: Friday, October 9th 11:30 (registration) 12:00 to 1:30 (program)

Where: Pacific Grill Event Center (1530 Pacific Ave., Tacoma), validated parking at the Convention Center is available

The theme of this fall’s luncheon is “Celebrating Downtown Life”. There are many plans being made and programs offered that make downtown’s future bright. Join us to celebrate all that downtown Tacoma has to offer now and in the coming year.

Presentations include:

- Development plans for downtown’s Dome & Brewery Districts

- An update on downtown parking pay stations by City Manager Eric Anderson

- News on the Grand Cinema’s new 4th Theater

- And…Introducing Shunpike, an arts service organization helping Tacoma’s artists become entrepreneurs

To reserve your seat register on line today at www.tacomachamber.org or contact Cathy at the Chamber, cathyt@tacomachamber.org, 253.627.2175

Price:
$20 Chamber Ambassadors prepaid
$25 Chamber Members prepaid
$30 Members at the door
$35 Non-members prepaid or at the door

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Luzon to be Demolished Saturday

City Manager Eric Anderson announced at this afternoon’s City Council Study Session that the historic Luzon Building will be torn down this Saturday. According to the building official, the structure is in eminent danger of collapse and must be taken down immediately to protect the public. According to the City Manager, “there is no hope [for the Luzon]”.

This conclusion is the final determination in a series of last ditch efforts to save the Luzon from demolition. Years of neglect on the part of multiple owners, including Pierce County left the building in a state of disrepair. Yesterday the structure was enclosed with a 6-foot fence after the Tacoma Police and Fire Departments insured the building was empty.

The Luzon is one of the first buildings on the West Coast built by Chicago architects, Burnham and Root to employ an internal steel structure, later used in the engineering of skyscrapers. An effort will be made to preserve the steel structure and the unique patina brick on the exterior of the building.
Other stories on the Luzon...

Mobility Master Plan Community Workshops this Week!

Join the City of Tacoma in identfying existing conditions and opportunities to improve Tacoma's bicycling and walking environments, as well as connections to transit. Three community workshops will be held this week and early next week, and Tacoma citizens are invited! Attend and voice your insights and opinions on vital transportation corridors, connectivity gaps, and Tacoma's general mobility direction. Check out the info on the city's website: http://www.cityoftacoma.org/Page.aspx?hid=12894

Mobility Plan Community Workshop Dates:
Wednesday, Sept. 23 - South Park Community Center
Address: 4851 S Tacoma Way Tacoma, WA 98409
Website: http://www.metroparkstacoma.org/page.php?id=47

Thursday, Sept. 24 - Norpoint Centre
Address: 4818 Nassau Ave NE Tacoma, WA 98422
Website: http://www.metroparkstacoma.org/page.php?id=45

Monday, Sept. 28 - University of Puget Sound, Rasmussen Rotunda in Wheelock Student Center
Address: 1500 N. Warner, Tacoma, WA 98416
Website: www.pugetsound.edu

PARK(ing) Day a Success!

On Friday, September 18th, Transportation Choices Coalition, Cascade Land Conservancy, and others hosted a "park" spot for PARK(ing) Day - a day when parking spots are recognized as public spaces. This global day is all about demonstrating the value of the space given up for autos by dramatically transfering parking spots into temporary parks.

For Tacoma's first year of participation, we were amazed at the success of both creating our "park" and beginning a conversation on what it is we were doing and why we were doing it. In our passing conversations with pedestrians, bicyclists, and even motorists waiting at the stoplight in front of the UWT Bookstore, we many times saw quizzical looks turn into "aha" moments when the message clicked. While the host organizations involved in no way think that those two spots in front of UWT or the one in front of Buzzards are an ideal location for a "park", we did enjoy imagining if only for a day the use of streets and parking spots for uses other than cars.

For more information on PARK(ing) Day, check out http://www.parkingday.org/.
For images of Tacoma's PARK(ing) Day, view the pictures below.

































Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Creating Something Out of an Abandoned Brewery District- IDA Conference Part 2

I had the opportunity to tour the long-vacant former Pabst Brewery today. As a loyal PBR drinker the opportunity made me nostalgic for my college days, but it also peaked my professional interest as a planner ruminating over what to do about our own long-vacant Heidelberg Brewery.
There are many similarities between the two development opportunities and I only hope that the City of Tacoma learns from Milwaukee’s near missteps and builds on the Brewery City’s successes.

The Pabst Brewery, which closed in 1996, sits on a 21-acre site adjacent to Interstate 43 and is minutes from downtown Milwaukee. The site includes 16 historic tax credit eligible buildings, 6 construction-ready parcels and two parking garages to be built by the Master Developer, Joseph Zilber, Chairman of Brewery Project LLC. Mr. Zilber, stepped forward to purchase the site after a previous entertainment-oriented redevelopment proposal fizzled. Through this project, Mr. Zilber envisions creating a new mixed use neighborhood rather than, as one of the project investors described the previous proposal, a passing retail fade.

The Brewery Project LLC is using historic tax credits and tax increment financing to rehabilitate the historic buildings, including the old boiler building, brewing laboratories and grain silo. The buildings will be renovated and sold to new owners looking to creating new retail, residential and offices uses on the site. Already the property houses the Blue Ribbon Loft Apartments and a development firm. Seventy-percent of the residential units are affordable to low income tenants and intended as live/work artists lofts. The University of Wisconsin has expressed interest in relocating and expanding their Public Health program in the old beer bottling building that was made famous in the opening scenes of the TV series Lavern and Shirley.

Highlighting environmental sustainability is an essential component of the project, which boasts an on-sight storm water management system and 90% construction waste recycling. The project is also reconnects long-vacated streets to the grid and incorporates porous street pavement to minimize water run off. For their efforts, the developers are being rewarded as contenders for LEED Platinum Certification upon project completion.

As an outsider to this massive project it looks to me like the developers and the City of Milwaukee are doing everything right. This is an exciting and inspirational project. The proximity of Tacoma’s own Brewery District to our downtown and the district’s historic buildings pose an equally exciting prospect, but we must learn from the Brewery City and NOT COMPROMISE. Tacoma is deserving of the best designed buildings that pay homage to our culture and history. We must not settle for the newest best offer that comes our way, but instead demand quality design and uses that compliment our community.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Retail Recruiting- IDA Conference Part 1

I am in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this week at the International Downtown Association Conference. The conference, hosted each year by a different city U.S. or Canadian city provides lectures and conversations on downtown retail development, safety and security, creating great public spaces, parking management and urban design. I’ll be reporting over the next couple days on what I learn.

It’s comforting to know that when it comes to downtown retail, Tacoma is not alone. Milwaukee, a city of nearly 600,000 people has blocks of vacant store fronts and towers of vacant office space just like us. However, Milwaukee is taking bold steps to combat their downtown vacancy rate and rejuvenate their street life. In addition to a city branding campaign and functional wayfinding system, Milwaukee has hired retail consultants, CivicVisions not to just revitalize downtown retail, but to transform downtown through strategic retail recruitment.

We all know that amenities attract people, but it’s attracting the right mix of amenities to downtown that’s tricky. To do this, Milwaukee’s consultant CivicVisions suggests:

· There is not quick fix to retail recruitment. A downtown retail strategy is a long-term plan that is implemented over three to five years or more.

· Define a distinct geographic area of downtown to attract retail to. Do not try to attract new retail everywhere at once.

· Hire a trained retail recruiter who is familiar with our community and committed to it, has plenty of retail and merchandising experience, and is good at both building relationships and selling the community’s vision.

· Identify the type and quality of businesses you want and be discerning about the ones you go after. Businesses attract other like-businesses, but the wrong business can inhibit recruitment of the ones you want.

· Property owners must be part of the solution and help to develop a strategy that incentivizes the right mix of retail services and amenities.

· Fa├žade updates that modernize buildings and improve merchandise displays will likely need to be part of the strategy.

This makes sense to me. Maybe it’s time for Tacoma to try out a retail recruiter again…

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Russell Leaves…What’s the Next Step for Tacoma?

While news of losing the Frank Russell Company may initially feel like a punch in the gut that knocks the wind out of us all, once we regain our collective breath we realize that now is the opportunity to define our City and our direction for the future. There is much to be excited about.

Last night amid the clack of pool balls at a well know local watering hole a group of Tacoma’s notorious urban schemers met to discuss the future of Tacoma in a post-Russell world. The clear tone among the group was that what we all love about Tacoma does not exist thanks to one employer. We choose to live and work in Tacoma because of the people, the activities and the opportunities to collectively create a place that reflects the interests, ideas and passions of the people who live here.

So I ask, what do you want, citizens Tacoma? What is your vision for our community?

Do you want to create a vibrant urban center filled with arts, music, parks, and bikes and streetcars? If so, how do we get there? What should we prioritize in our urban centers parking or people? Culturally, what do we need as community members to fulfill our hearts and minds? What can we do to better promote the arts and support our homegrown artist? How do we bring business to Tacoma and fill our downtown with bustling shops and great places to work? How do we tell people about what we’ve got? What must we do to highlight our great neighborhoods and vibrant downtown to small businesses, new employers, and potential residents? All of these questions need answers, the best of which come from you, citizens of Tacoma.

This is an exciting time for Tacoma, a time to define where we go next. There are innumerable opportunities to influence the shape, look and feel of our community. Here are a handful of opportunities, events and ways to get involved. I know there are others and I encourage you to get involved and help shape Tacoma’s future.

Brewery District Plan

Mobility Master Plan

Downtown Parking Meters

Clean and Safe Teams and initiatives

Pierce Transit System Redesign

PSRC’s Transportation 2040 plan

Go Local Tacoma

City of Tacoma Neighborhood Councils

The Arts

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Candidates’ Transportation Forum This Thursday!

On Thursday, October 1st please join The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Transportation Choices Coalition, and other co-sponsoring organizations for a citywide Candidates’ Transportation Forum.

Because our transportation and land use policies have dramatic impacts on economic development, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, community health, and quality of life, these topics pose some of the greatest challenges facing Tacoma’s City Council. At this forum, candidates will respond to questions about the future of Tacoma’s transportation system (transit, bikeways, roads, parking, etc.) and related land-use implications.
The forum is open to the public, and transportation related questions for the candidates can be submitted prior to the event to juliap@tacomachamber.org.

EVENT INFORMATION ~
When: Thursday, Oct 1st, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Carwein Auditorium, UWT

Please note ~
This forum is intended for the education of the public on candidates’ views on transportation and land use issues. It is not meant to endorse or support particular candidates. Invitations were extended to all candidates for Tacoma City Council and Mayor of Tacoma.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Paid On-Street Parking...It's Coming...Really

Parking pay stations are coming to the streets of downtown Tacoma. According to City Manager Eric Anderson, expect to see the meters on street this spring.

This announcement is the culmination of nearly a decade of conversations and debates about paid on-street parking. Throughout the years conversations have centered around the tedious balance between charging for parking without deterring customers and having available on-street parking spots for customers and clients.

Most recently the Parking Implementation Committee, comprised of stakeholders from throughout the City’s business districts and downtown worked with consultants to devise a strategy to implement paid-on street parking.

With current demand for downtown on-street parking out pacing supply, the turning point in the conversation was acceptance of a widely held transportation theory that parking pricing should be market based and set at a price point that supports 15% parking spot vacancy. The theory in practice is intended to insure that, while you might not be able to find a spot in front of your favorite business, with 15% vacancy you’ll likely be able to find and pay for one down the street.

How it will work
If approved by the City Council the first phase of parking meters we be rolled out in roughly the BIA boundaries, between S. 7th and S. 21st and between I-705 and Market St.

The pay stations will be similar to Seattle’s where a user purchases a window sticker for and can take extra parking time with them for errands in other parts of the paid parking zone.

The City Manager is asking the Council to set the initial rate at 75 cents per hour with an understanding that this rate will adjust to facilitate 15% vacancy. All revenues generated from the pay stations will stay within the parking system, which supports parking-related investments.

A citizen’s advisory committee will be formed to advise the City on rate and policy changes as the public adjusts to the new system.

Timeline
September 15th: Pay station proposal reviewed y Committee of the Whole
September 22nd: Council Study Session will review proposed Ordinance
September 29th: First reading of Ordinance
October 6th: Second reading of Ordinance

If passed by Council an RFP for the pay stations will be issued in mid-October and the contract placed at the end of November.

The City Manager is planning a 3 to 4 month public outreach and education campaign in preparation for the pay stations to be installed by April.

What if I don’t want to pay for parking?
There are numerous resources to help downtown employers, employees, residents, customers, visitors, and students get out of their cars an into a bus, van/carpool on to a bike, walking or teleworking. The friendly people at Pierce Transit www.piercetrips.com and Downtown: On the Go! can help you with all your commuting needs. Even changing your commute just once a week will save you money.

Conversations RE: Tacoma brings urban planning to the masses

The Southwest Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture and The Harris Architectural Trust are teaming up with other local organizations for the 1st annual lecture series, Conversation RE: Tacoma.

Through this three-part lecture series the AIA and others hope to provoke thought, inform the public and stimulate conversation about Tacoma’s urban form and the communities we are building through the City’s Comprehensive Plan. These are opportunities for community-wide discussions about our City’s design future.

IT"S OUR CITY, let’s redefine it and reinvent it.


For more information go to http://www.retacoma.com/.