Sunday, June 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

Recent development deals might mean downtown is on the mend

A week doesn’t go by these days without a developer or agency announcing plans on some new building, facility renovation or expansion, news that suggests Tacoma’s economy is on the mend.

“Tacoma is on the move,” said Tacoma’s Economic Development Director Ricardo Noguera. “The announcement of State Farm’s arrival to Tacoma is drawing investment interest from near and far. We have institutional and local investment interests in Tacoma … The writing is on the wall. Tacoma is the place to invest, and we represent a clear alternative to developers, businesses and home seekers for a more affordable, safer, family-oriented, good night life and recreationally-oriented environment to live, work and play.”

Developments in the works include a San Diego-based investment firm purchasing two multi-family developments in downtown; Carion Bros. launching a 161-unit, rental project along the Foss waterway called The Henry; John Wise, developer of The Metropolitan, set to break ground on 252 Broadway, a multi-family project, Noguera pointed out. He added that three other housing developments are in the works and his office is about to seek developers interested in two city-owned parcels that will likely bring more construction activity sooner rather than later.

This is all good news for business watchers, who have recently seen vacancy rates hover around 50 percent and saw more for lease signs than construction crews.

“I would say that the momentum is shifting to the positive, but there aren’t a lot of new people coming into the market,” Kidder Mathews Associate Vice President Dominic Accetturo.

The vacancy rate for office spaces in downtown Tacoma hovers at about 13 percent, according to industry reports.

While high-end office space is tight with the news that State Farm Insurance Co is taking the bulk of Tacoma’s Class A office space with its lease of the former Russell Investment Group headquarters, there is a large stock of funky, historical warehouse spaces that professional, office-space seekers are trending toward for regional or satellite offices of King County-based operations. Filling offices downtown eventually trickles down into filling the retail spaces, particularly in downtown. Flipping the “for lease” signs to “open” will take the State Farm workers seeking options downtown as well as visible work at the former Elks Lodge into the well-anticipated McMenamins hotel and entertainment complex that has been set back a year to now open in late 2014.

“I’d sure like to see them start pushing dirt, so to speak,” Accetturo said.

Elsewhere downtown, a Bellevue developer has plans for the 108-year-old Columbia Bank building along Broadway. The 88,000-square-foot, five-story former department store sold for $4.8 million in a foreclosure deal worth about two thirds of the assessed value. Plans in the works include renovating the few vacant offices this in the building later this summer for professional businesses.

Up the hill, Tacoma Housing Authority has announced development plans at the mixed-use, public housing community of Salishan along Tacoma’s stretch of Portland Avenue, which would have been served by the Link line. THA sold 143 lots in the development for $5 million to D.R. Horton. The nation’s largest homebuilder is set to being construction of three-and-four-bedroom, single-family homes as early as this summer that will largely sell for market rates. A few dozen of the homes will be sold for less-than-market prices to lower-income families.

Also, along Martin Luther King Jr. Way, another private developer is working on a deal to renovate the historic Pochert and Kellogg-Sicker buildings for apartments. Construction of the Hilltop Regional Health Center is well underway. The $16 million building is to begin offering health care service to local residents next year, another medical office along what is known as the Medical Mile between MultiCare’s Tacoma General and Franciscan Health System’s St. Joseph Hospital on the other.