2008 Stories & Pictures — Photo Spotlight

&idEDITOR’S NOTE: The Tacoma Daily Index concludes its look back at some of the significant people, stories, and photographs featured in these pages in 2008. On Dec. 22, we looked at the city’s historic preservationists. On Dec. 24, we looked at milestone moments. On Dec. 26, we recapped historic landmark nominations. Today, we conclude the series with a collection of some memorable photographs.

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1. Wedge Neighborhood Historic District

This photograph of two Craftsman homes in the shadow of MultiCare’s sprawling campus sums up well an issue facing residents of Tacoma’s “Wedge” neighborhood.

In September, the Index was the first to report a neighborhood group would pursue historic district status for their area.

They certainly have a case.

The Wedge, which stretches from Sixth Avenue to Division Avenue, and L Street to Sprague Avenue, is a part of Tacoma that boasts more than five dozen homes dating back 80 years and more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And its ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches. It also includes 67 residential homes built between 1889 and 1928, and the most unique residential home is the Titlow Mansion, which was built in 1899 and was home to Aaron Titlow, who built Washington State’s first tidewater hotel.

Historic district designation could provide some protection against demolition in and around the neighborhood.

In May 2006, the congregation of First United Methodist Church sold its 1916 church building to MultiCare Health System for $8 million. It was later demolished to make room for the hospital’s expansion. The building was located one block from the Wedge neighborhood’s eastern border.

In September, the city’s landmarks preservation commission began looking at the nomination. The process is expected to continue next year.

“We want to see this happen,” Laurie Hunger told the Index. Hunger and two other residents authored and submitted the historic nomination. “We want to work together [with the landmarks commission] to make this happen and get their feedback.”

In 2008, the Index published the following stories about the Wedge historic district nomination:

— MultiCare, Wedge residents discuss hospital expansion, historic district effort (10/02/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1385425&more=0

— A Slice of History: Two meetings will explore Wedge historic district nomination (09/23/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1355266&more=0

— Will Tacoma’s Wedge neighborhood go historic? (09/05/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1318920&more=0

2. Luzon Building

In August, owner of the 118-year-old Luzon Building opened the doors and invited the Index inside for a tour of one of downtown’s overlooked and historic architectural jewels.

Designed by Chicago architecture firm Burnham & Root, it was one of the first high-rise towers on the West Coast, the embodiment of engineering genius – sturdy brick shell, cast iron columns, and wood construction on the upper floors — that allowed the building to top out at a soaring height for 1890s Tacoma. It was an engineering model that would be copied, and opened the door to the future development of “skyscrapers.”

The subject of on-again, off-again development rumors for at least the last five years, the latest hope for the Luzon Building comes from downtown Tacoma-based Gintz Group, which purchased the building in March and plans to convert it into Class B leasable historic office space. In the end, the company will have spent $7.5 million on purchase and renovation of the building.

“I haven’t lost anybody yet,” joked Gintz Group project manager Tim Lieberman, as a flood of sunlight poured into the Commerce Street entrance and a large moth darted toward sunlight.

Inside, it was not unlike the “Fight Club” house: paint peeled from most surfaces like skin off a week-old sunburn; holes large enough to crawl through existed in some of the walls; water dripped from too many places to count; and a sheen of dirt covered most windows, affecting a misty glow on most floors. In many areas, floors sank like whirlpools stretching down to the next level. Above us, ceilings comprised of central beams with rib-like planks bowed like giant rib cages.

Despite all the neglect, the building has charm.

A 1916 Otis elevator will be restored. “ThyssenKrupp’s modernization team is going to take the elevator offsite, fully rehab it, and then rebuild on top of a brand new plaster,” Lieberman explained. “All the controls and machinery will be new. But when you walk into the elevator here, you’ll be walking into a historic car.”

And its prescient design still affords benefits: when completed, tenants will have a whole floor — some 3,300-square-feet — with large windows offering great natural light on three sides.

“We have a responsibility, when you have a building like this, to do the right thing,” commented Lieberman. “There’s the glory of the building, giving back to Tacoma. Those are key components and we would never look at it purely from an economic perspective.”

In 2008, the Index published the following stories about the Luzon Building:

— Buildings In Peril: Historic preservation advocacy group names 9 endangered Tacoma sites (10/22/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1399939&more=0

— Luzon Unlocked (08/28/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23=1308142&more=0

— Local developer completes renovation of former Stothart Hotel, Mecca Theater (05/09/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1214189&more=0

3. Pacific Plaza Construction

In June, the view out the Index’s office windows revealed two construction workers perched high above downtown Tacoma and assembling a crane at Pacific Plaza, located near So. 12th St. and Pacific Ave. After several decades as one of downtown Tacoma’s biggest eye sores, the former Park Plaza South is under renovation. Pacific Plaza LLC, a development group, is in the middle of a $32.5 million revamp of the building.

When completed next summer, the revamped facility will boast two new floors of office space, one new level of parking, and expanded and improved street-level retail totaling approximately 32,000 square feet. It will provide approximately 500 parking stalls, and feature 24-hour-per-day security features such as key cards, improved lighting, branded floors, and open stairwell.

Despite a sluggish economy and the big question of whether Russell Investment Group will keep its headquarters in downtown Tacoma or move away (the company, which employs approximately 1,300 people and occupies close to 400,000 square feet of office space downtown, says it will make a decision by year’s end), developers told Tacoma City Council they have received interest from a variety of potential tenants.

In 2008, the Index published the following stories about the Pacific Plaza renovation:

— Developers seek artists for Pacific Plaza renovation (10/13/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1392488&more=0

— State awards $12 million deductions for Tacoma projects (09/16/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1331269&more=0

— $3 million funding resolution for Pacific Plaza could reach City Council next week (08/06/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1279700&more=0

— Developers seek LEED certification, $3 million from City to complete Pacific Plaza project (07/09/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1260216&more=0

— How’s the weather up there? (06/10/08) http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1236965&more=0