Tacoma poised to sell MLK library branch for $700K

The City of Tacoma is poised to sell the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Branch of the Tacoma Public Library, located at 1902 South Cedar Street and shuttered since 2011, for $700,000 to a local doctor who plans to use the site as a non-profit medical center.

If approved by Tacoma City Council later this month, Doctor Thomas Lizotte plans to turn the building into the Diabetic Foot Health Resource Center to provide care for individuals with diabetes who are at risk for limb-loss and provide prosthetic limbs for amputees.

The MLK Library branch and the Swan Creek Library branch, located at 3828 East Portland Avenue, were closed last year due to budget shortfalls and costs related to deferred maintenance. The Swan Creek branch is also for sale.

According to Conor McCarthy, assistant division manager in Tacoma’s public works department, 6.64 per cent, or $46,474, of the sale price will be deposited in the City’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Fund because of their investment in the property and applicable federal law. The remaining $653,526 of the sale proceeds will be deposited in the City’s General Fund. The Library Board of Trustees has requested that this money be allocated for the maintenance of library facilities.

Last month, a selection advisory committee that included the vice chair of the Central Neighborhood Council, the director of Tacoma Public Libraries, and three City staff members met and reviewed Dr. Lizotte’s proposal, according to McCarthy. “Out of 500 points available for the proposal, Dr. Lizotte received 468 points,” he noted. “In addition to the scoring proposal, the committee voted unanimously to recommend the sale of the property determining that Dr. Lizotte’s proposed uses are a good fit for the property and the neighborhood. If this resolution is approved and the sale agreement executed, Lizotte will also execute a restrictive covenant encumbering the land, which requires them to use the property consistent with its proposal for a five-year period.”

The MLK library branch dates back to 1984, when voters approved a $15.8 million library bond. In 1986, Tacoma acquired land for $155,000 to build the MLK branch, which cost $944,000 to construct, including $78,152 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. The MLK branch library opened in 1989. In 2012, the assessed value totaled approximately $1.14 million. However, the building has approximately $450,000 in deferred maintenance: the roof and ventilation system need to be replaced, and exterior walls and windows must be repaired. The Library Board estimated it would cost approximately $20,400 annually for insurance, security, utilities, and landscaping related to the mothballed building and property.

Tacoma City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution authorizing the sale during its meeting on Tues., June 26 at 5 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the first floor of the Tacoma Municipal Building, located 747 Market Street. More information is online here. Meetings are streamed live online here and broadcast live on TV Tacoma.