Rebirth and remembrance downtown: County-City Building improvements dedicated to fallen officer

It was a little more than 20 years ago when Tacoma Patrol Officer Craig Nollmeyer responded to a domestic disturbance call at N. 10th and Prospect Ave. A Tacoma man had killed his wife and wounded his 12 year old son before chasing the youngster to a neighbor’s home. Officer Nollmeyer confronted the suspect on N. 11th. The officer was shot to death and the man was later charged and sent to prison.

Since that time, the city has made concerted efforts to remember Officer Nollmeyer. A 300-foot stretch of road leading to the County-City building was named “Nollmeyer Lane” in his honor. And the Police Department showed unwavering support for Nollmeyer’s widow, Patricia Nollmeyer-Rubottom. “I’ve received so much love and outpouring from the department over the years,” she said. “I’ve always felt like I was part of the police community.”

That show of support continued this week when improvements to the County-City Building were unveiled at a ceremony Monday designed to re-dedicate Nollmeyer Lane and show off the new campus.

“Craig was a model patrol officer who led by example and led with his heart,” said Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell. “He was a loving and devoted father and husband, as well as a partner that would not let you down. Memorials such as this remind us of those who faithfully and selflessly devoted their lives to serving and protecting others and putting their own lives at risk.”

“Peace officer was the role Craig played,” said Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma. “We are here to honor a person who served with distinction on the thin blue line. This grand plaza and street mark his career.”

The improvements, which cost approximately $3 million, include a redesigned and refurbished Nollmeyer Lane and a terraced walkway bordering Nollmeyer from Yakima Avenue to the foot of the County-City Building tower near the building’s west entrance. The walkway project includes leaf-design fence panel artwork and an upgraded west entrance to the building. A plaque honoring Officer Nollmeyer rests at the foot of the walkway.

“Thousands of people will be walking down these stairs, and the first thing they’ll see at the bottom is this plaque reminding them why this is Nollmeyer Lane and who Craig Nollmeyer was,” said Pierce County Executive John W. Ladenburg.

The improvements were part of a larger project that also included resurfacing the County-City Building’s exterior; removing the Jail Annex and reconstructing a 181-space public parking lot; installing a lighted, aluminum-framed colonnade and landscaped trellis and planters bordering the east side of the parking lot and featuring multi-colored Plexiglas panels; reconstructing the sidewalk and restoring the lawn between South 11th Street and the building’s west entrance; planting more than 100 trees and shrubs along Nollmeyer and throughout the campus; and installing 11-foot-high blue pylons on sidewalks to identify county offices on the campus and also at other county buildings in the vicinity.

“This is the kind of project that shows we can beautify urban areas of our city,” said Ladenburg, who instituted a four-year program designed to renovate the deteriorating condition of the courthouse and county building.

Serpanok Construction Inc. was the general contractor for the Nollmeyer Lane and parking lot-related improvements. Also involved were Vlahovich Design Associates, The Berger Partnership (landscape architect), Sparling (electrical) Engineers, and Apex (civil) Engineering. The County-City Building, which houses Pierce County Superior Court, Clerk of the Superior Court, District Court, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department administration, offices of the County Executive and County Council and other county and city offices, is located at 930 Tacoma Ave. S.

“This is a real honor for us,” said Nollmeyer-Rubottom. “I can’t explain how much this means to us knowing that Craig’s legacy will live on.”