Downtown On the Go and Transportation Choices Coalition held a forum today to discuss the ins and outs of transit-oriented development as Tacoma ponders which route to support for an expansion of its Link light rail system.
In the hot seat at the University of Washington-Tacoma gathering were: Puget Sound Regional Council/Growing Transit Communities Program Manager Ben Bakkenta, Sound Transit Government and Community Relations Officer Chelsea Levy, and Tacoma City Councilmember David Boe, who pointed out that he was speaking as an architect and urban planner and not as a member of the council.
While much of the discussion was about the impact transit hubs and routes can bring to a community, Boe used numbers to suggest that, although 6th Avenue has some developable lands, parcels would have to be cobbled together to make any larger developments financially viable.
The most obvious “developable” site would mean buying five parcels from four owners to get 12,000 square feet of frontage. Yada yada yada, that would mean, with Boe’s calculations, about $12 million to buy the land, displace the businesses and make a building large enough to even come close to financially penciling.
Calculating 32 housing units on the site, the condos would have to be about $383,000 each and mean only 52 units per acre because of the surface parking and storm water requirements. Any potential retail income on the lower level, Boe argued, wouldn’t factor into the financing since banks want hard numbers not speculation of the current retail market rates. The construction costs would equate to a minimum of $32 per square foot while the existing 6th Avenue market is currently a nominal $15 per square foot.
“We have expectations and aspirations, but we don’t have the market,” Boe said.