A Building on the Brink: Add nuisance report, falling debris to Winthrop's woes

A public nuisance order issued earlier this year by the City of Tacoma due to debris falling from the 12-story, 85-year-old Winthrop Hotel and onto a downtown street won’t be fully addressed until early next year, according to a report released today by the City of Tacoma.

In an Aug. 17 memo to interim City Manager Rey Arellano, Public Works Director Richard McKinley notes the City of Tacoma received a complaint from the Tacoma Fire Department on April 13 and sent a code inspector to the building the same day. In his Nuisance Code Inspection Report, senior building inspector Nick Stephens noted “there are pieces of the masonry falling from the building and injuring pedestrians below” and the owner “must barricade a portion of the sidewalk along Ninth Street to assure nothing falls and injures citizens below. The barricade must prevent people from walking into a dangerous area but still allow passage on the right-of-way and be in place until the problem is fixed.” Two days later, the building’s owner, Prium Companies, LLC, operating as Winthrop Hotel LLC, received a permit to install scaffolding for sidewalk protection. Work to repair the exterior of the building along South Ninth Street began three days later.

In May, Allied Group, Inc., a company hired to manage the building, submitted to City Hall a timeline and plan of action for completing the repairs:

  • Phase One / South Ninth Street — Repairs completed by July 27, 2011;
  • Phase Two / Broadway — Assessment completed by Aug., 27, 2011; work completed by Oct. 26, 2011;
  • Phase Three / Commerce Street — Assessment completed by Nov. 25, 2011; repairs completed by Jan. 24, 2012.

That plan was revised in July:

  • Phase One / South Ninth Street — Repairs completed by Aug. 26, 2011;
  • Phase Two / Broadway — Assessment completed by Sept. 28, 2011; repairs completed by Nov. 30, 2011;
  • Phase Three / Commerce Street — Assessment completed by Dec. 30, 2011; repairs completed by March 3, 2012.

The public nuisance order related to falling debris is just one more maintenance issue that saddles the building.

A May 2009 property condition assessment made public earlier this month brought some sobering financial information surrounding the building, which is located in property records at 773 Broadway, but has a main entrance at 776 Commerce Street. The building is currently home to approximately 200 residents of low-income status. The report, which was prepared for the Tacoma Housing Authority by Bothell, Wash.-based Criterium-Pioli Engineers, showed the building is in need of approximately $15.7 million in repairs and upgrades over the next 10 years.

In 2007, Tacoma-based Prium Companies LLC purchased the building for approximately $6.5 million by using a $4.5 million loan from Frontier Bank (now Union Bank), and a $2 million loan from the City of Tacoma. In 2009, Tacoma Housing Authority considered purchasing the building. Last month, The News Tribune reported the Winthrop Hotel is for sale and the company’s co-founders have declared bankruptcy and could owe as much as $350 million due to a range of failed development projects.

The Winthrop Hotel in downtown Tacoma. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Winthrop Hotel, click on the following links:

In 2009, the Tacoma Daily Index published a series of interviews with many residents of the Winthrop Hotel. To read the complete series, 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.