First New Tacoma Awards handed out

We’re smack dab in the middle of awards season, and here in “America’s #1 Wired City” it’s no exception, with the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and Heritage Bank handing out the first-ever New Tacoma Awards.

The winners, as well as the nominees, were honored during Wednesday’s program spotlighting leaders making the city center a better place to live, work, play and visit.

“We hope this will become an annual event,” Paul Ellis, chamber metropolitan development director, said to a packed house at the Tacoma Club on the 16th floor of the Wells Fargo building.

“I think it’s very natural that our company would sponsor this event,”” said Don Rhodes, president and CEO of Heritage Bank.

The individuals, businesses and organizations considered were based on nominations from the downtown community and were judged by a panel that included members of the retail community, the real estate community and media.

Winners and nominees for the four awards are as follows:

The Ghilarducci Award, which recognizes successful new development, renovation or beautification, went to Thea’s Landing, the first successful mixed-use development on the The Foss Waterway. Raelene Rogers, Thea’s Landing manager, was on hand to accept the award. “We are proud to be part of Tacoma,” she said, noting Thea’s Landing is thriving, with occupancy rates in the high 90 percent rate. A new restaurant is set to open at Thea’s Landing this summer, she said, declining to be any more specific. Other nominees for the Ghilarducci Award were Albers Mill, a century-old building that has been transformed into the home of 36 loft-style apartments and an art gallery; Broadway Center investors, for the renovation of the Tacoma School of the Arts; and Niblick LLC, for renovation of the building at 711 Pacific Ave.

The Popham Award, which recognizes an individual who has done the most to build community spirit, went to Sondra Purcell, a community activist who helped save Albers Mill. ““It wasn’t just me, of course,”” Purcell said in accepting the award, noting how the community played a large part in Albers Mill being transformed into Albers Mill Lofts. Other nominees for the Popham Award included real estate broker Eric Cederstrand; Don Meyer, head of the Thea Foss Waterway Development Authority; and Marle Wendt, a volunteer with City Club of Tacoma and the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council.

The Schoenfeld Award, which recognizes exemplary performance – and pizzazz – as a retailer, went to heel! shoes, a boutique for the discriminating footwear shopper located on South 9th Street. Accepting on behalf of heel! shoes was Gayle Rieber, president of the Downtown Merchants Group. Other nominees for the Schoenfeld Award were El Gaucho, Rock Pasta, Sonja’s Clothing for Women and The Watermark.

The Union Station Award, which recognizes leading companies or individuals for building or sustaining revitalization momentum, went to the University of Washington Tacoma. ““It’’s an award-winning campus, and we’re very proud to be there,”” said Sandy Boyle, UW Tacoma vice chancellor for finance and administration. She said the university has met the two goals it set out to achieve: access to higher education for the South Sound and providing an economic stimulus for the region. Other nominees for the Union Station Award included Blaine Johnson, developer of The Passages; local architect Jim Merritt; and the Thea Foss Waterway Development Authority.

“”You can see the big difference in Tacoma,”” said emcee Joseph Beaulieu, senior vice president of marketing for Venture Bank, of the city’s renaissance. ““It’s exciting.””