Morenos restoration efforts will create shared work space for artists, entrepreneurs
By David Guest
Tacoma Daily Index editor
Another historical building overlooking Tacoma’s Commencement Bay is about to get a makeover. The Union Club, founded and built in 1888 by Tacoma’s elite as a social and business club, will be transformed into a creative coworking space for local artists and entrepreneurs by Amber and Eli Moreno, who founded Surge Tacoma and developed the McKinley Artists Lofts.
The Union Club, which previously served as the event space David’s on Broadway, sits next door to the historic Elks Lodge, which McMenamins is putting through a $32 million renovation to create a brew pub and hotel. Together, the Morenos hope the two buildings will inspire and stimulate a neighborhood renaissance.
“We are very excited about the McMenamins project,” Amber Moreno said. “It will have a wonderful impact on the neighborhood and the community. Our project is much smaller in size and scope than McMenamins, (but) by creating a coworking community we are able to keep the building largely ‘as-built.’”
Plans for the five-story building include permanent and communal workspaces, artist studio space with dedicated desks, computers, printers, Wi-Fi, and a kitchen. The lower level will remain rentable event space. The facility is scheduled to open in late 2016, with more live/work spaces available on the lower levels beginning in 2017.
The Union Club – which has hosted an impressive list of dignitaries over the decades, including President William Taft, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and football great Knute Rockne – was listed on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places in July 2009.
Amber Moreno’s hope is that a vibrant mix of artists, entrepreneurs and technology workers in the membership roles will provide the cash flow required to renovate and maintain the iconic building. The Moreno’s paid $1.2 million for the building at 539 Broadway and will invest an undisclosed amount on its renovation.
“The focus of this project is not only going to be on the artist community,” said Amber. “We are excited about the positive energy and collaboration that will come out of a workspace filled with creative entrepreneurs, tech companies and artists. We feel the collective synergies will be beneficial to everyone.”
Membership fees haven’t been announced, but may compare with fees charge at Surge Tacoma, a common workspace facility on Tacoma Ave. S. – $125 per month for a full membership, $199 per month for a dedicated desk and up to $700 per month for a private office.
The Union Club is a substantial financial investment for the Morenos, but turning a profit isn’t the only way they measure success.
“We have found Tacoma to be a great place for us to raise a family and grow our business and one of our personal goals is to give back to Tacoma in a meaningful way,” Amber said in an email message. “We feel that opening a business that is designed to support and encourage local artists and entrepreneurs will help us accomplish that goal. According to Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, ‘Arts, culture, and creativity are essential keys to Tacoma’s distinctive identity. They enrich people’s lives, enhance communities, and have a significant economic impact on our city.’”
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