Building inspector’s report shows more work needed at ‘derelict’ Old City Hall

The City of Tacoma is giving the owner of Old City Hall in downtown Tacoma until the end of February to address several issues related to the historic structure’s status as a derelict building, according to the city’s public works director and the most recent building inspection report.

In December 2010, a city building inspector deemed the 119-year-old building, which is located at 625 South Commerce Street and included on Tacoma’s register of historic places, ‘derelict’ after an on-site tour, noting a chimney with loose and missing bricks and mortar and in such disrepair it needs to be repointed; creaky old basement stairs so poorly constructed they don’t meet the city’s building code requirements; and a sprinkler system incapable of protecting a five-story building from a fire. Follow-up inspections occurred on March 21 and Dec. 7, according to Tacoma Public Works Director Richard McKinley. A building inspector’s report completed last week shows many issues were resolved, while others were slated to be addressed as part of an overall renovation and rehabilitation project that  was supposed to already be under way.

“The agreed upon plan of action for Old City Hall anticipated the start of an overall rehabilitation project by the end of 2011,” wrote McKinley in a Jan. 12 letter to interim City Manager Rey Arellano. “To date, plans and/or permits have not been submitted to the City and the work has not started.”

Last week, a representative of the building’s owner agreed to a number of items and a timeline for repairs, according to McKinley.

The items and timeline include the following, per the inspector’s report:

  • Continue to work with the community and economic development department, as well as other potential partners, to ensure that Old City Hall remains an asset to the community;
  • The sprinkler system and the alarm system are to remain live and activated;
  • Heat must be maintained throughout the building at all times to control moisture problems and to maintain heat for the required sprinkler system;
  • Remove all loose bricks from the roof and chimney and all other material that is subject to fall within 30 days. In December 2010, a city inspector ordered the re-alignment and replacement of all loose or missing bricks and mortar and repoint the chimney on the roof. In April 2011, the building inspector’s report noted the owner reported, “Addressing overall exterior condition is in scope for the rehab project. We are working to capitalize the project now and are targeting a start by end of year.” Yet, this month the building inspector noted the chimney still needed to be repaired. The inspector ordered the building owner to “remove all loose bricks and other material from the roof and chimney” by Feb. 10, 2012;
  • Repair all broken windows throughout the building within 30 days. In December 2010, a city inspector ordered broken windows throughout the building be replaced. In April 2011, the building inspector noted the owner stated, “Fully addressing window systems is in scope of the rehab. We are working to capitalize the project now and are targeting a start by end of year.” In August, a building inspector noted he was “satisfied with this response” and “work will commence by end of year.” Yet, this month the building inspector noted windows were still broken. The inspector ordered the building owner to “repair all broken windows throughout the building” by Feb. 10, 2012.
  • Provide a roofing certification from a licensed contractor regarding the condition of the roof and copper roof near the atrium within 45 days. In December 2010, a city inspector ordered the shed roof attached to the atrium on the top floor repaired by “replacing all sheathing and rafters that have been compromised and replace the composition shingles; remove all moss from the composition in all other areas as needed; take preventive actions to prevent all roof leaks; provide a new layer of Alumicoat to flat roof; repair the copper roof, lookouts, and overhangs where failing on the northwest tower.” In February 2011, the owner responded by reporting the “roof failed when an unauthorized person stepped on it causing a leak and a water collecting collapse,” according to the most recent inspector’s report. “Owner will repair and re-roof as needed,” the inspectore noted. “This work will be complete within 30 days.” In March 2011, the inspector reported repairs to the shed roof were completed, but repairs to a “flat roof” were still needed. The following month, the owner reported, “It is my understanding that the flat roof leaks have been recently repaired by a roofing contractor.” Still, this month the building inspector ordered the owner to “provide a roofing certification from a licensed contractor regarding the condition of the roof and copper roof near the atrium within 45 days. Due before March 1, 2012.”
  • The owner will continue to work with city staff and schedule a walk-through of the building every 60 days to inspect the condition of the building and verify any changes that may occur beginning in March;
  • All issues identified in the original inspection report will need to be addressed as a part of the overall renovation.

Last week, the Tacoma Daily Index e-mailed the building’s owner, George Webb of the Stratford Company, with a list of questions related to the inspector’s report and the future of Old City Hall. The Index did not receive a response.

To read McKinley’s memo and the building inspector’s report, click here.

Downtown Tacoma's Old City Hall. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of Old City Hall, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.