Brewery District Hotel Redux

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected Wednesday to discuss design plans for a new hotel in the Brewery District.

Last year, Seattle-based Hotel Concepts, Inc., announced it had applied for a demolition permit and intended to demolish the century-old former Heidelberg Brewing Company headquarters at 2102 S. C St. to clear space for a new 160-room Holiday Inn Express.

The building sits in the Union Station Conservation District, but it is not registered on any city, state, or national historic registers. However, by virtue of its location, the developer’s request for a permit to demolish the building triggered a review by the landmarks commission.

During a meeting in December, some commissioners and local preservationists argued the building had historic merit and wanted to know if any mitigation would be in store should developers receive approval to demolish it.

The building was originally designed in 1900 by the architect C.A. Darmer, and built by Albert Miller. Over the years, however, it has undergone two expansions, four additions, and suffered damage from two arsons. According to Reuben McKnight, the city’s historic preservation officer, the city hired a consultant in the 1990s to examine the historic significance of the building. The consultant concluded that decades of modifications “destroyed the historic character of the building.”

A recent study shows it would cost $14 million to adaptively re-use the Heidelberg Building.

During the December meeting, the developer unveiled its design plans for the new hotel. The design was overwhelmingly critiqued, and one commissioner said it was “a cookie-cutter design.”

Another concern: the new hotel could be a repeat of the downtown Courtyard Marriott. Since its opening several years ago, the hotel, located across the street from the sleek Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, has been harshly criticized for its design.

Sharon Winters, board president of the preservation advocacy group Historic Tacoma, pointed to the University of Washington Tacoma campus, also located in the Union Station Conservation District, as an example of a successful development project that incorporated existing buildings within the district. “The neighborhood context is critical,” she said. “The brewery district is unique.”

The meeting did not warrant any action by the commission. Instead, the developer was encouraged to re-think the design based on the commission’s comments. “Look very carefully at the impact of what you are proposing on the overall character,” said then-commissioner Greg Benton. “The care you take in design will go a long way toward informing our decision.”

According to materials provided to the commission for Wednesday’s meeting, the new design (PICTURED) is significantly different than the first one. It includes windows on upper floors that are of a size appropriate for a hotel and are of a similar size to adjacent structures; roof lines similar to the existing Heidelberg building and adjacent structures; brick that is uniform in color, size and texture to adjacent buildings; and upper floor stucco that matches surrounding buildings.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to discuss the revised design Weds., Aug. 12 at 5:00 p.m. at 728 St. Helens, Tacoma Municipal Building North, Room 16.

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For additional images of the hotel design and an online discussion of the issue, visit the Index’s blog at