THA weighs Winthrop building purchase

The Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) is considering whether to purchase the Winthrop Hotel building downtown, according to the agency's executive...

The Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) is considering whether to purchase the Winthrop Hotel building downtown, according to the agency’s executive director.

On Wednesday, THA Executive Director Michael Mirra met with a small group of Winthrop residents, as well as representatives from the Tacoma Police Department, Safe Streets, the City of Tacoma, and the building’s management company to address the issue.

“Rumors are flying that we have made a deal,” said Mirra. “THA was asked if we want to purchase the Winthrop. We don’t know if we can buy it. It’s preliminary at this point.”

Mirra added that THA and the building’s owner, Tacoma-based Prium Companies, “haven’t even entered negotiations yet. We’re looking the building over to try and tell us the condition of the building and what it would mean to own it.”

According to Mirra, THA has discussed the idea with City officials because the city has invested $2 million in the building in the form of a federal Urban Development Action Grant and THA would need the city’s help in order to complete any purchase.

“The city is aware that there is an interest and THA has been doing a vetting process, but the city hasn’t been involved at this point,” said City of Tacoma spokesman Rob McNair-Huff.

If THA does purchase the Winthrop, it would consider two uses for the building:

  • Address decades of deferred maintenance by fixing up the building and keeping it in its current use as affordable low-income housing. Mirra estimates the building needs tens of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and rehabilitation “or at some point the pigeons will move in.”
  • Or convert the building into a mixed-use property consisting of low-income housing, market-rate housing, and commercial office and retail space, and lease the ballroom to the public.

THA is expected to conclude its assessment of the building and make a decision in late-summer.

Prium purchased the building in 2007 with plans to restore it to a historic hotel and provide replacement housing for current tenants.

“I hope that we fall under THA,” said Winthrop resident Glenn Grigsby, who has lived in the building for more than 15 years. “I hope it works out.”

The Winthrop Hotel in downtown Tacoma. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Winthrop Hotel, click on the following links:

In 2009, the Tacoma Daily Index published a series of interviews with many residents of the Winthrop Hotel. To read the complete series, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.

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