Port OKs demolition of former Brown & Haley warehouse

The Port of Tacoma Commission unanimously approved a decision Thursday to begin the process of demolishing a building on the tide flats that served as one of Brown & Haley’s warehouses for more than 40 years.

The Port of Tacoma purchased the property, located at 1940 East 11th Street, in October 2006 in anticipation of the expansion and redevelopment of the APM Terminals. A year later, however, the building was “red tagged” by the City of Tacoma after several structural failures were discovered.

“This [red tag] designation requires that either repairs are implemented to make the building structurally sound or that it be razed,” wrote port executive John Wolfe in a recent memo to the commission. “It was determined that the cost of repairs to the building outweighed the revenue generated by the building. The decision was made to raze the structure.”

The 116,000-square-foot building served Brown & Haley beginning in 1964. The port purchased the building and leased it to the candy maker until the damage was discovered. In August 2007, the commission unanimously approved a decision to help relocate Brown & Haley’s operations to a facility in Fife.

“Some Port-owned assets may have reached the end of their useful life,” Lou Paulsen, the port’s senior director of facilities development, told commissioners Thursday. “I’m here to present one such building.” Paulsen told commissioners that portions of the building are 70 years old and the major damage includes two broken trusses and extensive roof leaks. He also noted the building is no longer marketable.

Commissioner Connie Bacon asked if anything historically significant was left in the building after Brown & Haley, a Tacoma candy-maker that produces Almond Roca and dates back to 1912, re-located. Prior to Brown & Haley, the building was home to a mattress factory and a cabinet maker.

“It’s basically just a shell of a building,” said port project manager David Myers. He added that a safe that was once built into the structure had been removed by Brown & Haley.

The decision Thursday allows port staff to move forward on opening the bid process to solicit contractors for the abatement of hazardous materials such as asbestos, lead and universal wastes; the deconstruction of all portions of the structure except the foundations and slabs so as to minimize groundwater contamination beneath the building; sealing all floor penetrations; and the removal of site features surrounding the building. The port will advertise the bid in March and award a contract in April. The project is expected to be completed by the end of July. Myers estimated the demolition work will cost between $500,000 and $600,000. Additional work, such as the services of design consultants, hazardous materials consultants, and staff inspections and testing, is expected to cost $275,000.

When the work is completed, the 5.6-acre site could be used to store break bulk cargo or imported automobiles.

The former Brown & Haley Warehouse. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)
The former Brown & Haley Warehouse. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

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.