Tacoma City Council has approved a resolution for a 50-year lease agreement between the city, Foss Waterway Development Authority and Foss Waterway Seaport. This will allow the seaport to continue its efforts to redevelop the historic Balfour Dock Building.
Built in 1900, Balfour is part of a structure that once was a mile long. It has served as a museum and educational facility for a number of years. Improvements have been made, the most recent being a glass wall at the north side of the structure.
The lease comes with two options to renew for 10-year periods, if terms of the initial lease are upheld.
Tom Cashman, executive director of the seaport, said the new lease gives potential donors confidence in the project because the operators now have long-term control of the site. Donors are less likely to give money to a facility with a short-term lease, he observed.
The new entrance on the north side will be completed in early November. Work on the east wall, funded by the state, will begin next year.
Other work that has been done this year includes seismic upgrades, a new roof and renovations to old windows. This goes with the esplanade on the water side, completed several years ago.
Cashman recently announced he will be stepping down from his position as of Sept. 30. He had served as executive director for nine years. He noted that when he started, the organization was dependent on volunteers and a few part-time employees. It now has seven full-time employees.
“I am pleased with what we were able to accomplish,” he said. “We made great strides in a project many in town said would never happen.”
He spread the credit for that success to the board, city government and the many volunteers who donate their time to the facility. “There is a real willingness among people to make this happen.”
Cashman said he would be interested in a future position where he can shape something new or help an organization that wants to pursue a new direction.
“Tom has provided quality leadership for the seaport during his tenure,” Board President Archie Matthew said. “Under his leadership, he gathered together what was essentially an all-volunteer organization and a dilapidated facility and shaped a comprehensive vision, built a set of dynamic programs and raised more than $20 million to put the project on a strong path to fulfill its mission.”