Surprises in Perkins Building renovations

“The uniqueness of the Perkins Building in downtown Tacoma has been revealing itself to the workers of Mountain Construction, the general contractor preparing the building for its next tenants.The $7 million in renovations on the Perkins Building began in July, with the idea that high-tech tenants might be interested in being housed there. Included in updates was the installation of the Click! network fiber optic cables.Colliers International is marketing and leasing the building, which will also have room for 30 parking spaces in the basement. Brett Thomas, the marketing director for Mountain Construction, said that the original plans for work on the building called for the interior to be stripped of everything, right down to its brick and concrete.But what we uncovered under layers of sub floors and materials were these ceramic floor tiles. We didn’t know it was there. That was a neat discovery, he said, a treasure find. Those ceramic tiles were found on a number of floors so the new plans call for the tiles to be kept and restored. If someone wanted to cover the tiles with carpet, well, we hope they don’t.Another discovery was that all of the interior walls are brick. We expected to encounter concrete, said Thomas, because at the time of its completion in 1907, the Perkins Building was the tallest reinforced concrete building in the Northwest.They also made another discovery on the street level of the building, located at 1101 A St., Tacoma, where space was carved into smaller spaces for stores.After all of the materials were removed, it revealed this huge high ceiling about 18 or 20-feet high. It’s just fabulous with this big open space with brick. He joked that he thought the space, with big, dramatic light fixtures, Would make a great steak and seafood place.Thomas, who said he’s lived and worked in contemporary buildings for years, thought the Perkins project was just a neat undertaking at first.But as the project progress and new things get revealed, it’s gotten more under my skin personally. It’s just really satisfying.He added that on the eighth floor, workers found a chalk mark and a man’s name and a date, about 1906, on a column-probably a worker just leaving his mark for posterity.There’s a real sense of ‘what’s going to be uncovered today’ as the work continues. We can’t afford to build with the materials we used to. Can’t afford to put ceramic tiles throughout a building or brick inside to the extent that was done at the turn of the century. We certainly can’t afford to build buildings with those high ceilings and generous volume. It’s the real stuff.He said he’s thought about the men who built The Perkins structure.They went up on ladders to the wooden scaffolding. Then they mixed the concrete up there in buckets and poured it into forms made out of individual boards, not in big component systems like the ones used today. It’s mind boggling to think about building like that. That’s why the irregular surfaces and material appeals to me. I don’t think I would have anticipated liking them as much as I do.He said in the weeks to come, the company will be working on structural upgrades on the building and installing the new electrical systems.Work on the exterior, including cleaning and painting, will continue and then a new roof will be put on.Additional information about the history of the Perkins Building can be read at the Mountain Construction website at “