Hilltop residents would like to see efforts to recruit more restaurants and professional services to their section of town. That was one of many topics that people who attended an open house on May 24 at the Tacoma branch campus of Evergreen State College explored. The event was part of the city government’s efforts to plan for the future of the area around Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, the primary street running through the neighborhood.
The open house offered an opportunity to review and comment on key issues and community priorities that have been identified thus far in the process. It helps city staff and consultants to develop strategies that can be used to achieve those goals.
At this point, key issues and priorities identified include: transportation/connectivity, housing, social environment, education, historic/cultural preservation, employment, public spaces and aesthetics.
Surveys have been done of people who live and work on Hilltop, as well as business owners and customers of those establishments.
Tom Beckwith, a consultant hired by the city for this project, said surveys were sent to people who hold business licenses in the MLK corridor.
The two major employers in this part of town are Franciscan Health System, which operates St. Joseph Medical Center, and MultiCare Health System, which operates Tacoma General Hospital and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. Tables were placed in the hospitals on certain days so city staff could have the workers fill out surveys.
They were quizzed on a variety of topics, such as what grocery stores in the area they shop at and how often they eat meals at neighborhood restaurants.
A meeting was held to gather input from students at McCarver Elementary School. Some of their responses were posted on a board. A few displayed a sense of whimsy, such as one child’s desire to have ice cream trucks roll through Hilltop every day.
Beckwith noted that focus groups have been formed for people with an interest in a particular topic, such as housing, economic development, transportation and parks and recreation.
He said information gathered at focus group meetings will soon be available online. Information gathered from surveys will be summarized and edited.
Noah Yacker, a planner for the city, said information from the focus groups will help the city narrow the list of priorities for this part of town.
Yacker said a broad range of concerns have been raised by people who live or work on Hilltop. “A primary one is that that character of the community be maintained,” he remarked.
Previous meetings had renderings of buildings. While there are no plans to build these particular structures at this point, they were displayed to indicate what size future buildings might be. Yacker said some concerns have been expressed that the buildings are too big for this area.
The state Growth Management Act requires cities to plan for future growth. Yacker noted that Hilltop has been designated as an area that will accommodate an increase in population and employment.
“This is a great opportunity for people to say how this area should look,” he remarked.
Yacker said a draft of a subarea plan and environmental impact statement are being put together.
Tacoma City Councilmember Lauren Walker, who represents Hilltop, said she was pleased with the turnout at the meeting. She has lived in this section of the city for 23 years and has observed other plans and studies about Hilltop.
“This really makes me think the area is on the move,” she remarked. She feels the present process incorporates good ideas from previous plans. “This is a springboard from which to utilize old ideas and move forward with new ones.”
To obtain a survey, or to learn more about the planning process, visit http://www.cityoftacoma.org/mlkplan