While the economic downturn has halted plans for some developments, Point Ruston moves forward. The major mixed-use project straddles the border between Ruston and Tacoma along Commencement Bay.
Work is underway on Copper Line, a complex of 44 condominiums and 173 apartments. Loren Cohen, manager of legal affairs for Point Ruston, said this was originally planned to be all condominiums. As the condominium market took a downturn, the developer decided to make most of these rental units. "We have had to update our plans in conjunction with the market," Cohen remarked.
Crews are framing the building at a rate of one floor every 10 days. They began framing the fourth floor this week.
Cohen said people will start moving into the units by August or September.
The retail component will be called The Waterwalk at Point Ruston. Cohen said it will have three anchors – a 175-room Silver Cloud Hotel; a Century Theaters cinema and a grocery store. The cinema will have nine screens and about 1,600 seats. Cohen said there will be comfortable seats, surround sound and other amenities people look for in a modern cinema. "It will be a phenomenal experience."
Discussions are still underway on the grocery. Cohen said it would carry a large array of organic food. The store would have around 30,000 square feet.
There will be smaller retailers, between 40 and 50. These will include cafes and restaurants from well-known chains. Cohen thinks an outdoor clothing retailer would be ideal, considering how many people walk or jog along the waterfront. "That fits this environment well."
When the developer has about 50 percent of the space leased an announcement will be made on who they are. Cohen expects this to happen in two months. "People are showing strong interest."
The total amount of retail space, not including the hotel, will be 250,000 square feet.
The tunnel that once connected Ruston and Tacoma is closed and being filled in. Cohen said it often caused bottlenecks, especially on sunny summer days that attracted many people to the waterfront.
Peninsula Park will be created next to Tacoma Yacht Club. "That is a monumental opportunity for Metro Parks," Cohen remarked.
An esplanade for pedestrians will be completed later this year. "Hopefully people can walk on it this summer."
So why has Point Ruston moved forward when other projects in the area have stalled? Cohen said one reason is that they did not have a completed project as the downturn hit. "That hit a lot of local and national developers hard."
Much of the funding for the project is from private investors, as opposed to banks. "We avoided the ticking time bomb of interest on a construction loan."
A local improvement district to pay for some of the infrastructure is another factor that has allowed the project to stay viable. "That has allowed us to maintain our momentum."
Cohen said the most important factor distinguishing Point Ruston from other developments is that "our property is far and away the best." The waterfront location along Ruston Way makes it unique. He cites the views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains as great features.
"I believe our location proves the old adage about location, location, location."
On April 21 a grand opening ceremony will be held to celebrate the opening of Grand Avenue, which will be the main entrance to Point Ruston. A 5K race will take place. It will begin at a new roundabout near the Ruston/Tacoma border. The first race will be for professional runners, followed by another for amateurs. Proceeds will benefit Tacoma Waterfront Association and YWCA of Tacoma/Pierce County.