Former Brown & Haley warehouse could be razed by year’s end

The last days of the former Brown & Haley headquarters and warehouse on the Port of Tacoma tide flats are near.

It’s hard to imagine it today, but the sprawling, abandoned, and boarded up building near the corner of East 11th Street and Thorne Road was once a hub of economic activity and headquarters for one of Tacoma’s most prominent businesses.

In 1965, Brown & Haley—the world-famous Tacoma candy-maker that produces Almond Roca and dates back to 1912—moved into the 116,000-square-foot building and remained there for more than 40 years. Eight years ago, the Port of Tacoma purchased the property, located at 1940 E. 11th St., for $3 million and continued to lease the warehouse, which was built in 1948, to the candy maker until August of 2007, when a city building inspector “red tagged” the structure, citing two broken trusses and extensive roof leaks.

Evidence of the candy maker’s presence still existed in some places during a site visit two years ago. Although windows were boarded over and the entire 5.6-acre property has since been ringed by a chain-link fence, the building trim was painted the familiar pink color of Almond Roca tins, and a faded sign that once directed delivery drivers to the receiving department was still visible. According to Port of Tacoma staff, however, the building has reached the end of its useful life, and any historic significance has been stripped away, essentially leaving behind a building shell.

The Port of Tacoma began to make public its plans to demolish the building two years ago. Last year, the Port of Tacoma Commission directed $71,000 to board up the vacant building, and $850,000 to prepare the site for demolition. Earlier this month, commissioners directed approximately $3.24 million to complete the demolition. Port of Tacoma staff is expected to put the project out to bid this month, award a contract next month, and complete the demolition by the end of this year. The work will involve a high level of abatement due to polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and asbestos contamination found within the building and nearby soil. A steel manufacturing company was headquartered there prior to Brown & Haley. After crews complete the demolition, the Port of Tacoma is expected to use the site to expand its operations.

“It will be good to see that work completed,” said Port of Tacoma Commissioner Clare Petrich during a commission meeting on July 3, when commissioners authorized funding for the demolition.

“We’re going to put four-million dollars into this building and tear it down,” added Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Johnson. “We have no use for this building. The real option we have on the table is if we wanted to save the building, it would cost almost the same. But we could put four-million dollars into the building and tear it down five years from now as we expand the Port, or we could tear it down now. So it’s an excellent use of money.”

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the proposed demolition of the former Brown & Haley warehouse, 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 first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengerssecond-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State; third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; and third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright. His work has 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.