Surge Tacoma breathes new life into Old City Hall with elegant mixed-use restoration project

Proposed plan includes rooftop restaurants, clock tower event area, micro apartments, office and retail space, while creating more than 300 jobs in the area 

Tacoma’s Old City Hall, the most recognized historical property in the city, is destined to become a new hub for entertainment, business and urban living. Surge Tacoma, known for its development and renovation of local historic buildings, was selected last week by the City of Tacoma to enter into negotiations to transform Old City Hall into a dynamic, mixed-use space. Surge Tacoma proposed converting the 125 year-old Italianate-style structure into a mixed-use facility with restaurants, bars, an event area in the clock tower, residential, office and retail space. The project will create more than 300 local jobs and will provide much-needed affordable housing.

“Old City Hall is an amazing icon that should be synonymous with the vitality of our town,” said Eli Moreno, co-founder of Surge Tacoma.

“Our goal is to preserve its history and original materials while reconfiguring and modernizing the building’s spaces into thoughtfully designed gathering spots for eating, living, working, playing and learning. We envision Old City Hall becoming a reflection of – and a monument to – Tacoma’s talent and diversity.”

Except for the cars, this photo looks like it could have been taken a hundred years ago. It was the summer of 2018.
Except for the cars, this photo looks like it could have been taken a hundred years ago. It was the summer of 2018.

Other members of the Old City Hall development team are Harlow & Falk LLP, NBS Financial, Pacific Engineering, Easyway Contractors, CBRE and Artifacts Consulting, Inc.

Surge Tacoma is led by long-term Tacoma residents, the Moreno family, and has a proven track record of investing and helping to grow the city’s economic and social development, while preserving historic buildings for future generations. As an example, Surge Tacoma was the developer of the historic Union Club mansion, located just a few blocks from Old City Hall. Once a meeting place for the town’s elite, the 125 year-old building is now a thriving coworking space contributing to Tacoma’s growing artistic and entrepreneurial communities.

Construction is estimated to begin next summer, with a target opening date in 2021.

Old City Hall building plan sketch courtesy of Surge Tacoma
Old City Hall building plan sketch courtesy of Surge Tacoma

Renovation Proposal Details

The proposed design for Old City Hall consciously uses all of the spaces of this unique building. Areas scheduled to be included:

Restaurants, Bar and Event Space: The mix of eateries will consist of a casual restaurant in the basement level, a distinctive bar in the old jail on Pacific Avenue and an upscale restaurant in the rooftop area, taking advantage of its one-of-a-kind glass ceiling to offer patrons sweeping city views. The old clock and bell tower, which was originally built to house a bell and chimes manufactured by the company that cast the Liberty Bell, will be repurposed as a unique and distinctive event space.

Retail, Office and Housing: Office spaces will be re-energized with an upscale, industrial look using reclaimed wood floors, exposed brick, hanging plants, natural light and exposed ceilings. Almost 20,000 sf of retail space on the first and second levels will be available to local businesses and another 20,000 sf on the third and fourth levels will be dedicated to office and coworking space. 40 micro apartments, over half of which will be affordable housing units, will occupy the fifth floor. The building will also host The Tacoma Historical Society’s museum and exhibition space that will be open to the public and the Startup253 incubator, contributing to the city’s economic stimulation.

Tacoma Clock Challenge: In recognition of the importance of supporting the Tacoma community and local education, Surge Tacoma will soon launch the “Tacoma Clock Challenge.” This concept competition will inspire students, leaders and teams to propose ideas for restoring the historic Old City Hall clock back to its original splendor. The Challenge details will be announced shortly.

About Surge Tacoma: Founded in 2012, Surge Tacoma provides flexible, professional spaces for local startups, freelancers, entrepreneurs, students, non-profits and others to work productively within their community. The company promotes growth in the local tech, business and creative sectors by supporting members and local groups, enterprises, organizations and businesses that focus on supporting Tacoma’s future. For more information, visit:

– Surge Tacoma

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