Tacoma City Council committee OKs Dome District property sale

Tacoma City Council’s economic development committee Tuesday approved a recommendation to sell a city-owned, Dome District parcel deemed surplus. The full City Council is scheduled to vote next week on a resolution authorizing the sale. The 4,500 square foot parcel of land, located at 323 Puyallup Ave., was home to the old Durobilt Furniture and Upholstery store for many decades. It includes a two-story, 3,760 square foot building originally constructed in 1937.

The property was purchased by the City of Tacoma in 2005 as part of the $22.5 million D Street Overpass project. That project separated motor vehicle traffic from rail traffic and eliminated congestion in the area by raising the roadway near East D Street and East Dock Street. “Because the project primarily eliminated vehicular access to the business, the City was required to acquire the property and pay for business relocation expenses utilizing federal project funds,” wrote city staff in documents supporting the resolution. As a result, Durobilt Furniture and Upholstery relocated to 2507 Tacoma Ave. South. During city council’s economic development committee meeting Tuesday, Conor McCarthy, assistant division manager in the city’s real property services department, described the property as “land-locked” because the D Street overpass project eliminated delivery access to the building and a prior arrangement between the owner of an adjacent parking lot and Durobilt that allowed parking for employees and customers was quashed when Durobilt moved.

McCarthy also told committee members that Rick Semple and Jori Adkins approached the city to express interest in buying the property. Semple and Adkins own several parcels along the same 300 block of Puyallup Avenue. McCarthy said the property was appraised in December 2010 and valued at approximately $25 per square foot, or $115,000. The fair market value range was between 22 dollars and 31 dollars. In May, Adkins and Semple offered $100,000 for the property. The city had the property re-appraised in June. “Because we knew their offer was within the range of fair market value, we went back to our appraiser and said, ‘Can you at least take a look at this property and see whether or not the market has gone up or gone down?’ He estimated somewhere around a 20 percent downward adjustment. It was a pretty significant adjustment. So we decided it would be wise, at least at the staff level, to accept the offer of $100,000 offered by Semple and Adkins.”

“They are probably the most viable purchaser we think we could have for acquiring the property since they can establish access and create a functional business, which is their plan,” said McCarthy. The pair would purchase the property under an entity known as ‘SOTTOBOSCO, LLC.’ “Rick Semple is very excited about this and wants to re-design the building consistent with the original architecture,” added McCarthy. “I don’t believe that is required, but he’s pretty passionate about that. He’s improved the other buildings on the block. He has big plans for it.”

Tacoma City Council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the resolution (No. 13045) during its meeting on Tues., Oct. 4. at 5 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located on the first floor of the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St. To read the pending agenda and materials for that meeting, visit http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/cityclerk/Files/CityCouncil/Pendings/2011/Pd20111004.pdf .