Residents again seek historic district designation for Old Town Tacoma

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled Wednesday to receive a briefing on a new request to designate Tacoma’s oldest neighborhood an historic district.

It is the third time in 35 years that residents have requested the special review district overlay zoning for Old Town Tacoma. In 1974, the Old Tacoma Improvement Club sought the designation after conducting a survey that showed support. However, the plan was quashed when commercial property owners opposed it. In the early 1990s, residents again attempted to seek the historic district designation. The request was reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission, but was tabled by City Council, which “directed the historic preservation officer to redo the design review component so that property owners could more easily determine the architectural requirements for future development,” according to the most recent nomination prepared by Kathy P. Ursich and submitted to City Hall. Also, commercial property owners opposed being included within the boundaries of the proposed historic district.

The current nomination excludes Old Town’s business district and commercial properties located in the zoned “C-2 commercial” area from the proposed historic district overlay. Proponents hope this will be enough to attain approval.

According to documents prepared for the meeting by Reuben McKnight, the city’s historic preservation officer, a written request for the designation was submitted to City Hall on Sept. 15. It includes a six-page petition signed by 115 residential property owners or renters in the area who support the plan. It also includes a Dec. 8 letter from the North End Neighborhood Council supporting the plan.

“Old Town is the oldest neighborhood in Tacoma, and while Tacoma has several historic districts, the oldest neighborhood is not one of them” write Kyle Price, North End Neighborhood Council Membership Secretary, and Jonathan Phillips, North End Neighborhood Council Chair. “There have been previous attempts to form an historic district in Old Town, but those attempts have not been successful, in part because they included the Old Town Business District. This time, the historic district plan to exclude the business district from the boundary.”

The proposed boundaries would stretch from North 31st Street, south along North Junett Street to North 29th Street, west to North Carr Street, and south along Carr Street (including both sides of Carr) to Yakima. The southern boundary continues west along Tacoma Avenue North to North 11th Street before returning to North 30th Street. The area includes 55 residential homes dating between 1869 and 1960. Five properties have been placed on either the local, state, or national registers of historic places: St. Peter’s Church, 2910 North Starr Street (1873); Slavonian Hall, 2306 North 30th Street (1907); Seamen’s Rest, 2802 North Carr Street (1883); Starr Street Houses, 2721, 2723, 2801, 2803 North Starr Street (1906); and Olof Carlson House, 1116 North 26th Street (1899).

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to review the request at its public meetings between now and July 2011. This week’s meeting will be held on Weds., Dec. 8, at 5 p.m. in the Tacoma Municipal Building North, Room 16, 728 St. Helens. For a copy of the agenda and meeting materials, visit .

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of historic districts — including the newspaper’s extensive coverage of the Wedge Historic District effort — click on the following links:

Tacoma City Council committee defers decision on Wedge historic district proposal (11/18/10) —

City Council committee wants more discussion of Wedge historic district boundary (08/10/10) —

Boundaries, properties disputed in Wedge Historic District proposal (07/23/10) —

SEPT. 5, 2008 – MARCH 27, 2009 (PART ONE) —

APRIL 16, 2009 – MARCH 10, 2010 (PART TWO) —

MARCH 24, 2010 – JUNE 17, 2010 (PART THREE) —

Status Seekers: The challenges and benefits to seeking historic district designation (07/03/07) —