Landmarks Commission gives early-stage approval for Federal building project

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved several key elements of a conceptual design that would add a mobile coffee cart, landscaping amenities, a six-foot-tall fence and gates, and removable tables, chairs, and umbrellas to the 100-year-old former Federal building in downtown Tacoma. The commission also approved a plan to add two entry points to the existing single entrance on the east side of the building. It was originally constructed with three entrances, but modified when the U.S. Post Office purchased the building.

Still, a request from the building’s owners to add a new entrance to the northeast corner of the building will require further review, according to the commission’s decision Aug. 11. The commission will remain updated on the project as specific design elements are clarified and the owners prepare to apply for building permits.

According to the original proposal submitted to the commission June 28, the owners, George Heidgerken and Patrick Rhodes, hope to adaptively re-use the building for commercial and retail purposes, such as office space and a restaurant or a cafe. The pair purchased the four-story, 72,000-square-foot building, located at 1102 A Street, in May for approximately $1.4 million. The building, formally known as the Tacoma Federal Building, once housed the U.S. Courthouse and Customs offices. It is currently home to the U.S. Postal Service, which plans to relocate most of its operations in the future. Because the building is listed on the city, state, and national registers of historic places, the Landmarks Preservation Commission must review any modifications to the building.

Jon Potter, who has presented the plan at several commission meetings on behalf of the owners, has stressed the overall goal is to create a safe exterior environment for visitors to the building. “Currently, the area has to be cleaned up every morning,” said Potter. “It’s not the pristine, green area one might surmise it is. If you go in the mornings, on a daily basis there is a clean-up crew. A couple nights I’ve been down there and found hypodermic needles.”

Potter added the plan also addresses decades of deferred maintenance by the previous owner, the U.S. Postal Service. “The postal service really has not taken care of the facility and the grounds,” said Potter. “The city is very fortunate to have two owners who are very interested in the architectural integrity of the building. At the same time, it has to be a safe environment to visit, otherwise it’s going to be hard to lease out.”

On July 21, the commission conducted a site visit to learn more about the plan before approving elements of the conceptual design.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage, click on the following links:

Landmarks Preservation Commission plans site visit to shed light on plan for historic federal building (07/19/10) —

Mobile coffee stand, outdoor seating planned for historic downtown Post Office building (07/09/10) —