$3 million funding resolution for Pacific Plaza could reach City Council next week

Tacoma City Council is expected to hear the first reading of a resolution Aug. 12 that would appropriate $3 million toward completion of the renovation of Park Plaza South.

Though originally planned to reach councilmembers July 29, interim public works director Michael Slevin said last week the resolution would be presented to the council next week.

The $35 million project, currently under construction and renamed Pacific Plaza, is a partnership between the City of Tacoma and Pacific Plaza Development LLC. For decades, the crumbling, five-story parking garage located near South 13th and Commerce streets has been a downtown eyesore. At one point, a consultant recommended city officials pay to wrap the building in nature murals. So far, the city has committed $15.3 million toward the project.

But city staff and developers are asking for an additional $2 million to pay for general contract changes that include escalation costs, environmental cleanup, code changes, and operational enhancements, as well as a little over $1 million for proposed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) enhancements that would include a green roof with soil and vegetation, irrigation cistern, and garage lighting and fixture controls that developers hope will give the project a much sought after LEED-platinum certification.

During a meeting of City Council’s community and economic development committee July 8, Pacific Plaza co-developer Dan Putnam said his development team has built environmental sustainability into the project in hopes of setting a standard for new development downtown and drawing interest from potential tenants. “[It] will help us in marketing this building,” he told the committee.

One interesting wrinkle: the team recently discovered a former Turkish spa 15 feet below Pacific Avenue which could be used to collect rainwater and irrigate the rooftop greenspace currently planned for the project. “We may get close to net zero runoff in the building’s storm water system,” said Putnam.

Co-developer Tom Absher said LEED-platinum certification would help the developers fetch slightly higher lease rates in Tacoma, but less than other nearby metropolitan areas. It would also be the first significant Class A space in downtown in years, he added.

If City Council approves the resolution, it would tap several funds. According to Slevin, currently the city has collected $700,000 in Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) which is available for the project; $187,000 in Limited Tax General Obligation (LTGO) bond interest earnings; and $220,000 in other funds. However, it would have to execute a $1.8 million interfund loan against future revenue from the city’s parking system.

When completed in July 2009, 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.