Developer seeks $1.5 million UDAG loan for Carman Building renovation

The developer of an $11.2 million renovation of the former Carman Manufacturing Co. Building in the Dome District has asked the City of Tacoma for a $1.5 million Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) loan.

Tacoma City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee met Tuesday to discuss the proposal. According to Martha Anderson, the city’s assistant economic development director, The Landmark Group, a Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based developer of the project, has lined up approximately $9.7 million from Bank of America, and is looking for the $1.5 million UDAG loan to help the project pencil out. The bank loan is contingent upon whether the $1.5 million hole can be funded. The UDAG loan would be paid back in five years with four per cent interest and one per cent due at closing.

Anderson, who presented the plan with John Finke of the National Development Council, said the project “is really more consistent with who they are,” referring to the company’s long portfolio of historical renovations on the East Coast.

Finke added that the developer was initially drawn to Tacoma in 2006 by news of the Elks Building for sale. When they started to look around the city, they were drawn to the Carman Building located at 725 E. 25th St., near Tacoma Dome Station.

“When they first approached the project, they liked the character of the building,” said Finke. “But what they really liked was its location across from the transit center.”

The developer also owns a parking lot behind the Carman Building. There are preliminary plans to develop a second phase of the project on that site. City Councilmembers had some concerns over whether the second phase would be compatible with the historic character of the Carman Building renovation.

Still, the council committee approved a do-pass recommendation for the terms of the loan.

The developers still have more work ahead before the renovation would begin. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will meet today for a preliminary review of a nomination application to place the building on the local register of historic places. A public hearing for the nomination is planned Feb. 11. If recommended for the register, City Council would make a final decision in mid-March.

During an interview last week, Heather Hammond, President of Seattle-based HammondLand, Inc. and a co-investor in the 1890s-era property, said the property was purchased in fall 2006 with the intent of developing it into a 155-unit condominium complex. That plan later changed, and developers considered demolishing the building and erecting a new structure. However, a turbulent economy disrupted those plans.

After looking into the history of the building, the developer decided to save the structure and scale down the project. Currently, they plan to renovate it into a 71-unit loft-style apartment building with hardwood floors, wood beams, and a rooftop deck.

Hammond said securing the landmark status will provide tax valuation benefits and help fund the project. According to Hammond, approval of a loan and landmark designation would allow the developers to break ground mid-summer, and complete the project 12 months later.

According to the nomination application, the building was home to Carman Manufacturing Co. for 95 years. The company specialized in making mattresses and furniture. In the 1950s, it adopted the trade name “Spring Air of the Northwest.”

The wood-framed, heavy-timber warehouse was designed by prominent Tacoma architect Carl August Darmer. And though the structure looks like one big building from the street, it is actually four connected buildings that were built between 1893 and 1899 — the result of growing from 12 to 200 employees over the years. On June 30, 1900, a fire nearly destroyed the building. But Darmer and Albert Miller repaired the building for $5,000. Four generations of the Carman family worked there until the business moved to Lacey in 1998.

For interior photos of the building, click here:


Dome District building slated for historic register (01/10/09) —

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