Developers envision new life for old Elks building

Two developers have a grand plan to save the historic Elks Temple and bring a grocery store to downtown.

Tacoma developer Grace Pleasants and her business partner Rick Moses of the Los Angeles area, plan to purchase the 93-year-old structure, which has sat vacant for about 35 years, and resell it to the McMenamin brothers of Portland.

On the vacant lot just north of the Elks, Pleasants and Moses hope to have the city of Tacoma build a five-story parking garage with 300 stalls. On top of that would be a grocery store on one floor, with five stories of apartments with about 70 units total.

Moses is impressed by the ongoing renaissance of downtown, and feels this proposal continues it into the northern section of the urban core. "This is one more step in that process," he said.

He considers the Broadway local improvement district project, which is bringing new streets, water mains and other infrastructure to this section of downtown, as another good sign. "It shows how much the city cares about this area."

The city has made no commitment to the garage, but it has been conducting an extensive study of parking practices and policies for downtown. Moses said the city would like a garage in this section of downtown. It could be operated in a similar manner to the one at Museum of Glass, where the museum is run by a nonprofit organization but the garage is owned by the city.

"The city is good  about making careful

business decisions," Pleasants noted.

Pleasants said a consultant with considerable experience studying grocery store locations was hired to examine the market. He told them a grocery store here could generate sales of up to $400,000 a week. Depending on the chain selected, it could draw mainly downtown residents or could have more of a regional draw, similar to Metropolitan Market. Pleasants said two chains have expressed interest and are conducting their own market analysis.

Pleasants and Moses had tried to purchase the Old City Hall building. Around the time that effort fell through, they were contacted by the real estate broker for the Elks, who inquired if they were interested.

Other plans to renovate the Elks Temple have floundered for various reasons. Portland developer Williams & Dame is the current owner. They planned to incorporate it into a project with a 25-story condominium tower rising on the vacant lot. When the condo market crashed they put the property back on the market.

Why do they think this proposal will work? "Because we have the perfect tenant," Pleasants said of the McMenamins. "This is the perfect building. This is meant to happen."

Mike and Brian McMenamin are famous for their many hotels, brew pubs and entertainment venues around the Northwest.

They envision a pool/spa area on the Commerce Street level. Another floor would have a performance area that could hold crowds of 600 to 800 people. This could be rented out for wedding receptions and private parties.

The third floor would house a brew pub and restaurant.

The largest room, which was the Elks Lodge main gathering space, would be turned into two floors with a total of 40 hotel rooms.

The developers plan to close on the sale this fall. They plan to open the new structure and the renovated Elks on the same day in spring 2012.


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