Former Sauro’s Cleanerama site subject of downtown art exhibit

A new exhibit in the Woolworth Building provides a geological perspective on a downtown Tacoma block with a long history — the former Sauro’s Cleanerama site once located near South 14th Street and Pacific Avenue.

The exhibit, presented by Landau Associates as part of the Spaceworks Tacoma program, shows eight columns of photographs of soil samples collected at the site during a cleanup project that turned the site into a surface level parking lot. According to information accompanying the exhibit, the photo columns of soil samples show the strata from the ice age glacial till 40 feet below ground (far left) up to ground level (far right).

The site’s commercial history dates back to the 1880s. It was once home to a store, bus terminal, and boarding house. But for 50 years, it was home to Sauro’s Cleanerama. After Sauro’s closed, the lot was abandoned for more than a decade due to a toxic legacy. In May 2009, the Washington State Department of Ecology released a report that showed the site had “levels of the dry cleaning chemical perchloroethylene and its breakdown products in the soil and groundwater that exceeded state Model Toxics Control Act cleanup standards.”

The City eventually purchased the site and partnered with the Dept. of Ecology on a $2.6 million clean-up effort. In 2010, the City hired a contractor to turn the parcel into a street-level parking lot.The exhibit, which is located at the corner of South 11th Street and Commerce Street, will be on display through June 30. For more information, visit http://spaceworkstacoma.wordpress.com/ .

Spaceworks Tacoma is a joint initiative of the City of Tacoma and Shunpike designed to activate empty storefronts. Landau Associates, which has an office in Tacoma, provides scientific and engineering services, including site environmental remediation, environmental strategy and permitting, geotechnical engineering, and natural resource assessment and enhancement services.

A new exhibit in the Woolworth Building provides a geological perspective on a downtown Tacoma block with a long history -- the former Sauro's Cleanerama site once located near South 14th Street and Pacific Avenue. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS / TACOMA DAILY INDEX)