Tacoma City Council: Wedge neighborhood is historic

Tacoma City Council approved an ordinance May 24 that creates two overlay zones -- a historic district and a conservation...

Tacoma City Council approved an ordinance May 24 that creates two overlay zones — a historic district and a conservation district — in Tacoma’s Wedge neighborhood.

The zones approved in the ordinance are different than the zones recommended by Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and Planning Commission, which called for four empty homes owned by MultiCare Health System to be part of the historic district. According to property records, the vacant homes, which sit in the shadow of MultiCare’s sprawling hospital campus, are located at 1216 South Fourth Street (built in 1925); 1218 South Fourth Street (built in 1923); 417 South M Street (built in 1905); and 407 South M Street (built in 1908). The homes are located in an area limited to residential use. MultiCare officials wrote letters to City Hall asking that their homes be excluded from the proposed historic district and the boundary be re-drawn. The ordinance approved May 24 puts those homes in a conservation district instead of a historic district, as it was originally planned.

Similarly, a building located at 1521 Sixth Avenue and owned by Salvation Army of Tacoma was originally included in the historic district. The former motel, built in 1927 that now serves as the Salvation Army’s emergency lodge for 67 low-income people, will be part of a conservation district instead of the historic district, as it was originally planned. Salvation Army officials plan to expand the services offered on the site by demolishing the former lodge and building a new facility on an adjacent parcel.

Conservation districts have fewer property-use restrictions than historic districts.

Some Wedge neighborhood residents and property owners have been at odds for years over the MultiCare and Salvation Army properties. On Nov. 15, 2010, Tacoma City Council’s neighborhoods and housing committee could have made a final recommendation to the full council, but failed for the second time in three months to reach a consensus. During that meeting, the council committee worked through a variety of iterations for the proposed historic district and conservation district: leaving alone the district boundaries approved by the landmarks preservation commission and the planning commission, which includes MultiCare and Salvation Army properties; modifying the approved district boundaries by excluding MultiCare’s properties; and modifying the approved district boundaries by excluding Salvation Army’s properties.

The Wedge neighborhood, with its quaint homes and tree-lined streets, rests against MultiCare’s growing hospital campus. The proposal has worked its way through City Hall since June 2008, when three Wedge residents — Jean Carter, Char Cooper, and Laurie Hunger — submitted the historic district nomination to the city’s historic preservation office. According to the nomination, the Wedge neighborhood is an area of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And it is ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches. The historic district nomination is partly aimed at preserving the neighborhood’s character and history in light of MultiCare’s decision to demolish a 90-year-old church to make way for new construction, as well as concern over future demolition and development.

Councilmembers Lauren Walker, Victoria Woodards, Marilyn Strickland, Ryan Mello, and David Boe supported the ordinance. “Everyone involved gets something out of the deal,” commented Councilmember Walker. Councilmembers Spiro Manthou and Joe Lonergan opposed the ordinance. “When we start putting restrictions on people’s property, that greatly concerns me,” said Councilmember Lonergan. “It just seems like we are forcing the people who oppose it the most to be forced in there,” said Councilmember Manthou, who argued a majority of the neighborhood residents did not want their properties included in the special overlay zones. Councilmembers Jake Fey and Marty Campbell were absent.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Tacoma Daily Index has covered the Wedge historic district nomination since the application was submitted to City Hall nearly three years ago. The Index has published dozens of articles about the issue, including interviews with the authors of the nomination and residents in the neighborhood, public testimony of people who support or oppose the nomination, and photographs of a walking tour of the neighborhood with Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. To read the articles, click on the following links:

Wedge Historic District ordinance moved to May 17 Tacoma City Council meeting (05/05/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1970556&more=0

Wedge historic district ordinance reaches Tacoma City Council May 10 (04/29/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1967659&more=0

Nearly 3 years later, Wedge Historic District decision still looms (04/05/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1953052&more=0

Tacoma City Council to discuss Wedge Historic District proposal April 5 (04/01/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1952114&more=0

Tacoma City Council committee defers decision on Wedge historic district proposal (11/18/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1877403&more=0

City Council committee wants more discussion of Wedge historic district boundary (08/10/10) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1819424&more=0

Boundaries, properties disputed in Wedge Historic District proposal (07/23/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1810598&more=0

A House in the City, A Home to Neighborhood History: One resident’s connection to Tacoma’s storied Wedge area (04/16/09) — http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_walkup_residence.pdf

SEPT. 5, 2008 – MARCH 27, 2009 (PART ONE) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1807429&more=0

APRIL 16, 2009 – MARCH 10, 2010 (PART TWO) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1809055&more=0

MARCH 24, 2010 – JUNE 17, 2010 (PART THREE) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1809059&more=0

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