The last large grassy patch of land in downtown is set for big changes, with Tacoma officials asking developers’ thoughts on the spot in the city’s Brewery District.
City officials released a Request For Proposals for a 6.4-acre vacant spot at the corner of South 21st and Tacoma Avenue that the city had bought in 2000 as a potential site for a new Police Department headquarters. The city, however, opted instead for the former Costco site off 38th and Pine streets, leaving the downtown site unused and unneeded.
The “Great Recession” then hit and officials mothballed plans to sell the site. The economy is now improving, especially with State Farm set to move into the former Russell Investment building, developments in the works for the waterfront and the Link expansion set to run near the site. The final green light to sell the site came in January, when an environmental study of the site found no need for further cleanup. The fear of costly cleanup is a plague on local developments after a century of arsenic-laced smoke poured from the Asarco smelter and settled into the soils around Puget Sound.
The request for concepts from developers seeks proposals for office, light industrial, mixed-use or high-density residential sites as high as 10 stories. Concepts would vary greatly since the land is located by University of Washington-Tacoma, St. Joseph Hospital and the 21st Street bridge to the waterfront and Interstate 5. A third parcel nearby could be added to the mix if developers need a bit more land as well.
“It is extremely rare to find a site that is cleared, Economic Development Department specialist Ellie Walkowiak said. “It really is well positioned.”
All totaled, 7.3 acres could be involved in the sale. Proposals will be given scores on the overall concept, the plan to finance the proposal and the company’s ability to deliver on the plan.
The site will then be sold for more than the appraised value of $2.9 million. It can’t be sold for less no matter what the proposal offers.
“Those proposals won’t even be considered,” Walkowiak said, noting that since the land was used as collateral for city bonds, it can’t sell for less than the appraised value. All proceeds from the sale will go to pay off the bonds and not just go into the city’s General Fund.
Since the request involves two parcels, developers can submit concepts for each or both of the adjoining locations. The current assessed value for all lots is about $5 million. One site is $2.9 million and the other is $2.1 million, so those numbers give a scope of the dollars involved.
Proposals are due Aug. 20 and will be reviewed in the fall. A developer will be selected by Oct. 1. Actual construction would depend on the plans.
This is not the first time developers have looked at the site. Via Architecture completed the Brewery District Development Concept Study in 2010, which outlined general development concepts for that end of Tacoma’s downtown.
The city’s move to shed this unwanted property and return it to the tax rolls will have siblings soon enough. A handful of other city-owned sites, including parcels on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Holgate and near the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, are set to be on the sales floor.
“More may become available,” said Walkowiak.
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