City allows more time to close Hilltop development deal

A private developer who plans to purchase two vacant, City-owned historic buildings in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood and turn them into mixed-use centers was granted additional time this week to complete the deal.

In August, Tacoma City Council approved a purchase and sale agreement to sell the 1906 Kellogg-Sicker Building, located at 1114-16 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and the 1904 Pochert Building, located at 1110-12 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, for $100,000 to Kellogg Sicker Pochert, LLC (formerly known as MLK Rehab). Both buildings were purchased by the City in 2005, sat vacant for years, and were added to the local historic register last year. Developer Kellogg Sicker Pochert, LLC plans to preserve the historic buildings and develop the 10,000 square feet of space into approximately 10 market-rate residential units on the upper floors and retail spaces on the ground floor. The agreement provided for a 60-day feasibility review period, with a 30-day extension if necessary.

The project is part of a larger development plan that aims to bring housing, commercial, and retail spaces to the neighborhood through a partnership between the developer and Tacoma Housing Authority. Tacoma Housing Authority plans to develop two adjacent parcels, located at 1120 and 1124 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, as new construction of three to five floors and about 40 to 50 units of workforce affordable housing.

“We’ve been working hard to figure out how to make these things work,” Kellogg Sicker Pochert, LLC developer Kevin Grossman told Tacoma City Council Tuesday at City Hall. “[It's] not necessarily a large project, but it’s a complicated project because they are old brick buildings, [there's] lots of hazardous material, lots of deteriorated conditions, and it’s really expensive to bring them back into use.”

Grossman told councilmembers his development team was prepared to close the deal at the beginning of December but still needed to work out “residual details” with City staff. “I think we’ll be able to close probably by the end of January or early February,” added Grossman. “We just need a little bit more time to work with staff to iron a couple of details out.” He also assured councilmembers he was confident the project would move forward.

“The goal of this project is to revitalize the Hilltop and bring some really neat older buildings back online,” said Grossman. “We’ve got some very good restaurateurs that are Tacoma-based that we’re in discussion with about going into the ground-floor space. We’ve got our preliminary designs for bringing the upstairs residential back online. There was a small amount of office space that has been office and residential over the years that will come back into residential space that I think will be some of the coolest studios up on the Hilltop. So we’re very excited about it.”

Ricardo Noguera, Tacoma’s Community and Economic Development Department Director, noted the developer has been busy conducting site inspections and meeting with City staff to understand requirements for permitting.

On Tuesday, Councilmembers adopted a resolution that amended the original purchase and sale agreement and allow the developer to complete the deal by Feb. 28. “It is very exciting to see Safeway, People’s Pool, Community Health Care, and now this private project,” said Councilmember Lauren Walker, whose district includes the Hilltop neighborhood. “I think the extra time is certainly in order and we’re looking forward to seeing further movement.”

Two historically significant buildings in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood could be developed into mixed-use centers. (IMAGE COURTESY BLRB ARCHITECTS)

Two historically significant buildings in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood could be developed into mixed-use centers. (IMAGE COURTESY BLRB ARCHITECTS)

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Kellogg‐Sicker Building and Pochert Buildings, 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.