Inside the Winthrop

On Friday, the Index was the first to report the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) has been asked if it is interested in purchasing the Winthrop building downtown.

Tacoma-based Prium Companies, Inc. purchased the building in 2007 with plans to restore it to a historic hotel and provide replacement housing for current tenants. However, during a meeting May 27 between THA Executive Director Michael Mirra, a small group of Winthrop residents, and representatives from the Tacoma Police Department, Safe Streets, the City of Tacoma, and the building’s management, Mirra confirmed the agency was “looking the building over to try and tell us the condition of the building and what it would mean to own it.

“We don’t know if we can buy it,” he added. “It’s preliminary at this point.”

If THA does purchase the Winthrop, it would consider two uses for the building:

  • Address decades of deferred maintenance by fixing up the building and keeping it in its current use as affordable low-income housing. Mirra estimates the building needs tens of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and rehabilitation “or at some point the pigeons will move in.”
  • Or convert the building into a mixed-use property consisting of low-income housing, market-rate housing, and commercial office and retail space, and lease the ballroom to the public.

THA is expected to conclude its assessment of the building and make a decision in late-summer.

In October 2006, the Index joined then-prospective Winthrop developers Tim Quigg and Chester Trabucco on a tour of the 12-story, 83-year-old former historic hotel located at 776 Commerce St. It was a rare opportunity to view the building’s penthouse, balconies, Crystal Ballroom, basement, and fallout shelter.

Photos from that tour appeared in a special series published in the print edition of the Index and on the Index’s Web site. With the Winthrop back in the news, we have gone back to our photo archives and re-published some of those pictures.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Winthrop Hotel, click on the following links:

In 2009, the Tacoma Daily Index published a series of interviews with many residents of the Winthrop Hotel. To read the complete series, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at

Inside the penthouse level of the Winthrop Hotel. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Inside the penthouse level of the Winthrop Hotel. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

The view from the penthouse level of the Winthrop Hotel. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

The view from the penthouse level of the Winthrop Hotel. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)