Tacoma wins two AWC awards

The City of Tacoma’s Economic Development Department brought home two awards today in the 2002 Association of Washington Cities (AWC) Municipal Achievement Awards competition.
Mayor Bill Baarsma accepted both awards from AWC President Chuck Johnson last Thursday at the organization’s annual conference in Yakima.
LuminoCity, an innovative and festive community celebration in downtown Tacoma, took top honors in a field of more than 50 entries for cities with populations over 40,000.
The city debuted LuminoCity in January 2001 and held follow-up events in April and July 2001 and January 2002. Plans are under way for another event in July.
Each event focuses attention on a different commercial district downtown as luminaries and other signage lead people along the streets and into participating venues.
Museums and galleries open free of charge, often hosting “meet the artist” receptions and other programs, while neighboring merchants stay open late, offering sales and transforming into nontraditional venues for artistic programming such as music and dance.
To date, more than 100 businesses have participated in LuminoCity, attracting about 10,000 people downtown.
Merchants report record sales during the events, local museums see record attendance, and the city is able to showcase downtown Tacoma as the safe and family-friendly place it is.
The city partners with the Downtown Merchants Group, a local Art Walk organization and the Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau to promote LuminoCity.
Another Tacoma Economic Development Department effort, the Multifamily Housing Tax Incentive Program, took honorable mention in the AWC awards.
Besides LuminoCity, it was the only other award given in the same “large city” category. The tax incentive’s purpose is to encourage multifamily housing developments downtown and in Tacoma’s 13 other mixed-use centers around town.
The program offers a 10-year property tax exemption to anyone who rehabilitates, converts or builds four or more new housing units in designated urban areas.
Tacoma Economic Development staff conceived the Multifamily Housing Tax Incentive program and for 10 years diligently pursued a state law change that would allow its creation.
The Washington State Legislature authorized the exemption in 1995 and Tacoma was the first city in Washington to put the program into place.
Since 1996, the exemption resulted in the development of more than 400 housing units and an investment of more than $23 million.