Thursday, July 20, 2017 This Week's Paper

Former hospital site set for new life after years of neglect

Demolition is set to start to remove the long-time eyesore in Tacoma’s Eastside neighborhood so that the former hospital site can become the hub for South Sound 911 emergency response communication operations.
Dickson Company crews installed construction fencing in February to start staging demolition equipment at the site that is also being patrolled around the clock by off-duty police officers to keep transients from returning to the property and taking over the former patient rooms.
Before the security patrols, police responded to 35 calls for service to the site last year, and were set to shatter that tally this year with about two dozen police calls so far this year, according to police records. The number of incidents has slowed since the fence and patrols started, however. Most notable about the incidents this year was an unsolved fire at the hospital’s south building.
“Now there is a daily presence there,” said Pierce County project manager.
The county will continue to have off-duty police on the site through March 27, when Dickson will formally take over the site and have its own security plan to protect the site and the company’s construction equipment.
Work to remove asbestos materials and demolish the former hospital will take about six months at a cost of about $2 million. Outlines about the deconstruction process timeline will be the focus of a community meeting at 6 p.m., on March 21, hosted by Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Councilmember Rick Talbert at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department auditorium. People will also be able to ask questions, which will most likely center on noise, work hours and safety about the asbestos abatement process.
“It is a very regulated and controlled process,” Wakefield said.
While crimes might be down, construction complaints are likely on the way,
“People should be grateful that the wheels are turning,” said community activist Lynnette Scheidt, who also noted that the transients who had been living in the hospital site have seemingly moved to other areas of the neighborhood. “I have never in my life seen so many encampments.”
The former Puget Sound Hospital along the Pacific Avenue hillside dates back 110 years, when it started as Northern Pacific Hospital for railroad workers. It then served as a medical center under various names, most recently as a county-owned mental health facility that finally closed in 2010 after operating at the location for a decade.
Once finally demolished, the eight-acre site will be the new home for South Sound 911, the combined emergency dispatch and records agency for 41 police, fire and medical agencies in the county. Construction of the communication complex is set to start this fall and be completed in the summer of 2019 at a cost of $62 million.
South Sound 911's public safety communications center will include two buildings. The main building will be a 55,000-square-foot center for dispatch operations, as well as a municipal emergency operations center. A second building, about half its size will house administrative offices and a public counter.