Local governments explore 'urban village' concept near Cheney Stadium

Four local governing bodies are currently exploring the idea of developing a large parcel of public land into an urban village of mixed-use development, according to discussion during a presentation this week at City Hall.

Officials from the City of Tacoma, Pierce County, Tacoma Public Schools, and Metro Parks said this week that they planned to hire a local design and architecture firm to study development options for the 111-acre site bordered by Fircrest, State Route 16, South Tyler Street, and South 19th Street. The site also includes Cheney Stadium — home of the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers baseball team — Foss High School, and a wetlands preserve.

“The great irony is that government owns all of the land,” said Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg. “It is ripe for a master plan.”

What that master plan would look like is still unknown. Ladenburg envisions a “recreational, active lifestyle village” of mixed-use residential and retail. It could also be home to a new mass-transit center. Whatever development occurs, however, it appears Cheney Stadium and Foss High School would remain on the site.

“There’s a lot of possibility on this site,” added Ladenburg. “This is worthy of a good look.”

Still, Councilmember Lauren Walker said she had already heard concerns from constituents in her district over the development idea. She received a letter from the Central Neighborhood Council expressing concern about what impact the development would have on wetlands and nearby Snake Lake. “It’s wonderful to see this partnership,” said Councilmember Walker. “But I hope people think about the impact.” She also hoped that as much development interest would be paid to other parts off the city, such as neighborhoods around Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and in South Tacoma.

Similarly, school board member Kurt Miller said headquarters for a local chapter of the Boy Scouts is also located on the site. Miller also serves on the Boy Scouts board, and cautioned that the organization would likely not wish to relocate to a new building.

The development idea comes at a time when speculation has loomed over the future of the 48-year-old Cheney Stadium, which is jointly owned by the City and County. According to Tacoma public facilities director Mike Combs, the baseball team’s lease expires this year. However, the team is expected to renew its lease and stay in Tacoma.

Last year, the Legislature allocated $2.5 million toward stadium renovations. And it appears the City and County are leaning more toward stadium renovations than construction of a new stadium, which could cost as much as $120 million.

City of Tacoma, Pierce County, Tacoma Public Schools, and Metro Parks still need to approve the plan to study development options for the site. A study is expected to cost each governing body $45,000, and last six to eight weeks.