Committee aims to create South Tacoma Historic District

A plan to create a historic district in South Tacoma is gaining momentum at City Hall, according to discussion during...

A plan to create a historic district in South Tacoma is gaining momentum at City Hall, according to discussion during a Mar. 6 meeting of the city’s neighborhoods and housing committee.

The interest in South Tacoma traces back to last summer, when the city hired Eysaman & Company, a Tacoma-based consulting firm with a speciality in preservation work, to update records of 197 historic properties in South Tacoma. One recommendation that came out of that work was consideration of historic districts in South Tacoma and the South End. “Very few buildings in the South Tacoma and South End have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” wrote Eysaman & Company in its report. Though it was noted that four properties (Bob’s Java Jive, Kenworthy Warehouse, Tacoma Mausoleum, and Claude Grey House) are listed on the city’s register of historic places, they are not part of the national register.

“There’s a lot of public interest in this right now,” said Reuben McKnight, the city’s historic preservation officer. McKnight recommended the creation of a steering committee this spring to consider potential district boundaries, discuss preservation goals, and generate a community outreach plan to gauge support for historic districting. That committee would report its findings to the neighborhoods and housing committee, landmarks preservation committee, and planning commission later this year. A finalized plan for a historic district would move through the landmarks commission and planning commission before reaching the city council in late 2007.

Presently, Tacoma has three historic districts: two are located downtown, and one is located in the North Slope.

Councilmember Tom Stenger, an avid supporter of the idea, argued that Tacoma has witnessed an uneven distribution of effort in creating historic districts. “It isn’t just about mansions,” said Stenger. “It’s about worker cottages, too, and everything in between.”

Landmarks commission member Jonathan Phillips said limited resources have prevented further, citywide efforts to create historic districts. “The landmarks commission has encouraged recognition for years,” said Phillips. “It’s been hampered by a lack of time to do the job. There’s really no budget other than Reuben, and it’s difficult to get staff out into the neighborhoods. We’re excited and trying to build a little fire. I’m glad to see it get to the committee level.”

Mayor Bill Baarsma also supported the idea.

“I think it’s fantastic that this part of Tacoma is looking at restoring its neighborhood,” said Mayor Baarsma, who also chairs the neighborhoods and housing committee. “It adds tremendous value to a neighborhood.”

Baarsma recommended that Councilmember Stenger and McKnight work together to draft a resolution that supports the plan, and would be voted on by the full city council.

“I’m happy with the progress so far,” said Bruce Petersen, a member of the South Tacoma Neighborhood Council. “There are still additional properties I would like to see included, but we’re off to a good start.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Stories