Landmarks Preservation Commission plans site visit to shed light on plan for historic federal building

The City of Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is scheduled Wednesday to conduct a site visit of the 100-year-old downtown...

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is scheduled Wednesday to conduct a site visit of the 100-year-old downtown Tacoma post office building to learn more about a plan to add amenities such as landscaping, a seasonal coffee stand, and outdoor seating along the east side of the building.

According to a proposal submitted to the LPC June 28, the goal is to create a more pedestrian friendly environment outside the historic building located at 1102 A Street. The coffee stand and seating areas would be located entirely within property lines. The $8,500 project would also involve extending the existing low-growing boxwood along the perimeter next to the sidewalks and using landscape stones to create a flat and stable surface for tables and chairs.

Because the building is listed on the city, state, and national registers of historic places, the LPC must review any modifications to the building.

During its meeting July 14, some commissioners expressed concern over the plan.

“We live in the Pacific Northwest, and an outdoor use like this is seasonal and sporadic,” said Commissioner Fred King. He was concerned the landscape stones would effectively pave over the dirt and grass outside the building. “Paving the current lawn area doesn’t seem to me to be consistent with [the building’s] history. I just worry what the appearance will be, what the use will be. I wish the proposal were a bit more modest — more landscaping, less paving.”

Jon Potter, who presented the plan to the commission and spoke on behalf of the building’s owner, agreed the planned outdoor use would be seasonal. He also noted the idea was to implant stones and not simply pave over the area.

He also pointed to the overall goal of creating a safe environment downtown. “Currently, the area is being used as a dog park,” said Potter. “It has to be cleaned up every morning. 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.

“We notice that although you have some fantastic plazas, they’re not being used,” added Potter. “Creating tables, chairs, and umbrellas is one way to try to invite people to the street and hopefully create a more secure and inviting setting along A Street.”

George Heidgerken and a business partner purchased the four-story, 72,000-square-foot building 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.

“The Postal Service served the city well, but they have not necessarily kept the building in shape that the current ownership would like to see,” said Potter. “Fortunately, it is a local ownership. Their intent is to restore the building to its original historic plans.”

The LPC will meet at 1102 A Street on Weds., July 21 at 5:00 p.m. to conduct a site visit and learn more about the proposal.

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

Mobile coffee stand, outdoor seating planned for historic downtown Post Office building (07/09/10) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1803263&more=0

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