Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Proposed Changes to the City's Downtown Off-Street Parking Requirements

The City Council’s Environment and Public Works Committee has been approached by the Planning Commission with an array of recommended changes to downtown’s off-street parking regulations. Proposed changes include the elimination of a minimum number of parking stalls developers must build, a cap on the number of parking stalls allowed, and limitation on new or expanded on-site surface parking lots. The many aspects of the proposed revisions could be both advantageous and harmful to the development of downtown.

The proposal recognizes that getting rid of the requirement to build a minimum number of parking stalls within new developments encourages movement to a market-based system. No minimum requirements mean that developers will not build stalls that are unnecessary for their developments. Developers will be able to tailor to the unique parking needs of each project.

However, the proposed revisions also would include implementing a maximum number of parking stalls within the IFSA and decreasing the maximum number of stalls within downtown. This moves away from the City’s original intention to create a market-based system. In comparison, the much denser Portland allows 36% more stalls than proposed by the City of Tacoma. A cap on the number of stalls would hinder developers from building the amount of parking that some tenants may require, which puts downtown Tacoma at a clear disadvantage for future development.

It is vital to recognize that the proposed amendment being brought to the City is loaded with potential. While the city is encouraging smart development with one regulation, it is limiting opportunities with another. The City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendment on today, January 24, 2012, at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers, providing an opportunity to those who want to encourage the future growth and development of downtown to give their opinion.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Museums Closed this Third Thursday

The Third Thursday of the month is typically when our downtown museums offer free admission to all comers.  Unfortunately, the weather has closed all of the museums for this month's walk.  Often there are numerous galleries also involved in the event.  If you are still planning on attending one, I would highly recommend calling ahead of time to see if they are still open.  The Artwalk website can be found here for future months: http://www.artwalktacoma.com/

Tacoma Art Museum: http://www.tacomaartmuseum.org/
Washington State History Museum: http://www.washingtonhistory.org/visitus/default.aspx
Museum of Glass: http://www.museumofglass.org/
Children's Museum: http://www.playtacoma.org/

UPDATE 2: Schuster, Parking, & Transportation Updates

Downtown Tacoma has a handful of access points along its eastside, where it abuts the water.  Now the ice storm has claimed one of them - Schuster Parkway.

With the extensive snow piled on trees, the added weight of the ice was too much for many of the trees.  Schuster Parkway is littered with broken branches and small landslide in addition to all the snow and ice.  The City has closed the street until they've had a chance to clear the debris from the three lanes its currently obstructing.

We'll let you know if/when we hear more.

Schuster Parkway is expected to remain closed for most of the day.  According to the City, slides are continuing to occur as they are removing debris.

Also, for those who are downtown, there is no parking enforcement today due to the hazardous conditions and cars stranded in some areas of snow and ice.  This should be especially helpful to those residents who park on-street and have not ventured out in the last day.

Please note that a TPD officer may still cite anyone parked hazardously - blocking traffic, crosswalks, etc.  If your vehicle does become disabled, please do your best to move it out of traffic.

The Tacoma LINK cannot stay ahead of the ongoing icing.  For this reason, Sound Transit is suspending LINK service for the rest of the day.  If you need to get to one end of downtown or the other, Pierce Transit busses are continuing to run on snow routes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BIA Snow Maintenance

Each year we seem to get a snowfall or two in Tacoma, but usually not quite like this.  On the way in this morning I saw our BIA maintenance team working hard to keep downtown rolling for those businesses that were open.  This raised the question of how does the BIA respond when the snow falls?

The BIA's first responsibility is to prevent flooding on streets.  This can often happen when a stormdrain gets clogged with snow.  When the crews showed up early this morning, they first went throughout the area clearing the drains.  With the continuous snowfall throughout the day, they've been back clearing drains where needed.

Once the drains have been cleared, the crews have been removing snow from in front of the open retail establishments.  Since there are 84-blocks within the BIA, this can take some time.  As the crews move throughout downtown, they are clearing a path from the front door to the street, not the entire sidewalk.  With the constant snowfall, the BIA has been trying to get salt onto the icy sidewalks as well.

The BIA is only one piece of the puzzle in keeping downtown moving during snowfall.  The City, building managers, and businesses all play a role as well.  This means everyone pitching in as they are able.

The BIA will be back at it early tomorrow morning after what could be another interesting night.  If you see a drain causing trouble or we missed your business, please let us know and we will try and make sure we get to you.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Children's Museum Grand Opening

As if the Let's Play Sports Expo didn't offer enough play time for you this weekend, the Children's Museum is also having its grand opening.  This is a place full of wonder and excitement.  And just as important it's open to all regardless of their finances.

I had the opportunity to visit the Museum during a preview and it was still waiting some finishing touches, the handful of kids and adults seemed to be having a great time.  There were themed playscapes of Woods, Water, Voyager (pictured), Invention, and Becka's Studio.  People of all ages were exploring the tree house, the 14-foot tall waterfall or riding the Voyager. 

All of the playscapes these are highly interactive.  For instance on the Voyager, there are removable walls, a dubwaiter between levels, an internal telephone system, pedals to flap the wings, and pedals to operate the twin "engines."  This is the type of place I wish I had available to me as a child.

Now, with the signficant fundraising efforts of the Board and the comittment of the entire community, the Children's Museum is a pay-as-you-can facility.  This means nobody will be turned away.  If you are able to contribute, there are special benefits for members as well as several fee only programs.  For example if you need an evening without the kids, the museum offers a 3-hour "Parent's Night Out" where you can drop off your wee ones and grab dinner downtown.

For more information on the great opportunities the Children's Museum holds, please visit them online at http://www.playtacoma.org/.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Metro Parks Provides Updates to Improvements of Public Access to the Waterfront

Downtown residents and visitors alike enjoy visiting the businesses, parks, and recreational facilities of Tacoma’s beautiful waterfront. The first meeting the of the new year for the Tacoma Waterfront Association, an organization that serves the Tacoma community in promotion and development of the waterfront as a premier visitor destination in the South Sound, welcomed a new Board President, Loren Cohen, and speakers on behalf of Metro Parks Tacoma, Scott Knox and Dick Ramsey.

The Metro Parks representatives provided a vote of confidence that the $84.3 million bond measure passed in 2005 has been put to good use in improving more than sixty projects for improvement and creation of Metro Parks’ sites in the Greater Tacoma Area, five in the downtown area, and nine of which are public access to the waterfront.

Enhancement of waterfront recreational areas includes the revitalization and construction of a park at the head of the Foss Waterway in Downtown. The park will be located on a portion of 7.5 acres of land on the east side jointly purchased by the City of Tacoma and Metropolitan Parks Tacoma. Improvements such as these, especially to major Tacoma tourist attractions will come with increased business to Tacoma and strengthen the local community.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Let's Play- Sports and Fitness Fest

A new year means people looking to get active. Well, the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Commission and The Children’s Museum, YMCA, MultiCare Orthopedic, and Sports Medicine are teaming up to help out by hosting the first annual LET’S PLAY! Sports and Fitness Fest all this weekend, January 14th-16th.

Taking place in conjunction with the grand opening of the Tacoma Children’s Museum, the purpose of the three-day, multi-sport event at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center is for children and adults to participate, educate and compete in a variety of recreational sports and fitness activities, including some sports that may be new and fun to many like rugby, karate and even dragon boat racing. Hasn’t everyone wanted to test out their “karate chop” at one point in their life?

Admission is free for children 12 and under, and five non-perishable food items or $5 for age 13 and over. Events occurring throughout Saturday and Sunday will include a variety of sports tournaments; instructional clinics on fitness, health and wellness; as well as ongoing open participation physical activities for all ages. This then culminates with the 2.5k Let’s Walk on Monday Jan. 16th to deliver donated food items to the Martin Luther Kind Jr. Celebration Food Drive at the Tacoma Dome.

More information on LET’S PLAY! can be found here.