Tacoma’s Town Center Gets the Green Light

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

Tacoma doesn’t have much in the category of what could be called “blank-slate” properties, especially properties of substantial size.

But downtown Tacoma does have one.

And in the eyes of many, it could be what Tacoma has long lacked – a truly core urban center.

Tacoma has a lot going for it, and potential, from the Port to its schools and parks, that many cities could only dream of, but we have lacked that simple feature that literally defines virtually every city around the world – a center point.

A core of our city has emerged around UWT and our (almost accidental) museum district, and any center must be close to that historic and cultural bundle of energy.

We just might, after years, if not decades, of maybe this or maybe that development, be seeing something take shape on those hills just above the historic UWT campus.

Tacoma Town Center will be located in downtown Tacoma, a block or so above the UW Tacoma campus, between South 21st and South 23rd streets and Jefferson Avenue and Tacoma Avenue South.

The Tacoma City Council recently approved an amendment that would allow Galena Equity Partners to assume a majority interest from North America Asset Management Group (NAAM) LLC

That means that the $300 million mixed-use Town Center project in Tacoma can move forward, with some modifications.

As most of us know all too well, downtown Tacoma is much like a several thousand piece jig-saw puzzle with a few significant pieces missing.

We have several projects in place and some still in the planning stages that are key to a thriving urban core.

The balancing matrix of employment, entertainment and housing that creates a positive cycle of investment and semi-permanent engagement has long been an elusive vision for Tacoma, but maybe, just maybe, we are seeing, or at least will soon see, a solid and stable core in Tacoma.

The best urban cores are those that are near-self-sufficient in terms of providing every aspect of basic need from food to shopping to personal privacy.

And an urban center is far more than building and services, it is people with a connection to each other and the larger community – people with a stake in the neighborhood, its identity and character.

With work expected to being in earnest in July of this year, the seven-phase project is expected to be completed in 2025.

Those seven phases, by the way, include retail, student housing, office space and condominiums and town homes.

The first phase includes more than 240 thousand square feet of retail space, including more than 200 market rate housing units and office space surrounding a retail plaza – including a food court.

The final project will feature 225,000 square feet of specialty retail, entertainment space, unique restaurants and over 350 UW Tacoma student-housing units.

The project in its final incarnation will include co-working spaces and a dedicated e-sports arena set up for competitive video gaming.

As we locals know, this is a hillside space, with stunning east-facing views of Mt. Rainier and indescribable sunrises over The Cascade mountain range.

The property also overlooks, offers views of, and immediately walkable access to Tacoma’s ever-expanding Brewery and Museum Districts as well as a continuously widening palette of downtown opportunities, experiences and amenities.

This development looks like the crowning touch in critical mass that is putting into place one of the final major pieces of the urban puzzle/landscape that is downtown Tacoma.

For details and other images of the proposed site, look here: https://www.northamamg.com/tacoma-town-center-1.html

And just in case you didn’t know already, UW Tacoma’s 46-acre campus has more than 7,000 students and employees and is projected to double in size within the next 10 years.

And as much as it might be hard for us locals to believe, Tacoma sees over 6 million visitors a year, who patronize and support our local museums, restaurants and retail shops.

Much like Point Ruston on Tacoma’s waterfront, Tacoma Town Center, will redefine Tacoma’s place among Pacific Northwest cities.

Tacoma as a destination point may be a bit difficult for some of us to get used to, but the world, in more ways than one, has discovered Tacoma.

Students, visitors, entrepreneurs and new residents are becoming our neighbors, coworkers and employers.

With JBLM and the Port of Tacoma, we have reached out to the world for decades, and finally it seems, the world is reaching back to us.