Port OKs additional funds for former Brown & Haley headquarters demolition

The former Brown & Haley headquarters building on the Port of Tacoma tide flats is moving closer to its demise.

On Thursday, Port of Tacoma Commissioners directed an additional $550,000 toward a project that calls for the demolition of the existing building and foundations on the 5.6-acre site. The Port has already set aside $300,000 for the project. Earlier this year, the Port spent $71,000 to board up the vacant building.

According to Jan Shawyer, an engineering project manager at the Port, the money will be used to complete the design work necessary before the demolition can begin. That work includes addressing solvents in both the groundwater and surrounding soils; addressing building abatement of non-Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) hazardous materials; making determinations for remediation of PCB contaminants; coordinating efforts between the Port, the previous property owner, and regulatory agencies on clean-up efforts; developing and updating cost estimates and schedules; and developing bid documents for demolition.

The building was constructed in 1948 to serve Washington Steel Products. A decade later, the company was purchased by Chicago-based Ekco Products Company. At the height of its operations, the company employed 475 people at the site. In 1965, Brown & Haley, the Tacoma candy-maker that produces Almond Roca and dates back to 1912, moved into the 116,000-square-foot building and remained there for more than 40 years. The Port of Tacoma purchased the property, located at 1940 East 11th Street, from Sound Mattress & Felt Company for $3 million in October 2006. The Port of Tacoma continued to lease the warehouse to the candy maker until August 2007, when the commission unanimously approved a decision to help relocate Brown & Haley’s operations to a facility in Fife.

The building was subsequently “red tagged” by the City of Tacoma after several structural failures were discovered. Additionally, contaminants such as asbestos, lead and universal wastes were discovered on the site. The Port of Tacoma determined the cost of repairs to the building outweighed the revenue generated by the building. A decision was made to raze the structure.

Last year, the commission unanimously approved a proposal to begin planning for the site demolition.

“Some Port-owned assets may have reached the end of their useful life,” Lou Paulsen, the Port of Tacoma’s senior director of facilities development, told commissioners during the meeting last year to propose the demolition. “I’m here to present one such building.” Paulsen told commissioners that major building damage included two broken trusses and extensive roof leaks. He also noted the building was no longer marketable.

When asked if anything historically significant was left in the building after Brown & Haley re-located, Port of Tacoma project manager David Myers said, “It’s basically just a shell of a building.” He added that a safe that was once built into the structure had been removed by Brown & Haley.

This week, Shawyer told commissioners the Port would advertise for bids in June and award a contract in July. The project would be completed by the end of next year.

“[This would] allow us to make this property ready for the next use and future opportunities at the Port,” said Scott Francis, a real estate manager at the Port.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the demolition of the former Brown & Haley warehouse, 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 wahmee.com.

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