Triangle Townhomes coming to downtown Tacoma

City officials, developers and others gathered on a chilly Friday morning at the corner of 6th and Fawcett avenues for the groundbreaking ceremony of Triangle Townhomes, an $8.5 million downtown Tacoma housing project.

Triangle Townhomes will be located across from the Grand Cinema at the northern edge of the emerging Theater District neighborhood. An urbanesque project by Catapult Community Developers of Seattle, the distinctively triangular site will feature 26 contemporary homes designed by Johnston Architects, also based in Seattle.

Catapult principal Mark Huppert and Mayor Bill Baarsma discussed the potential impact of the project, as they waited for the rest of the crowd to arrive for the official start of the ceremony.

“We’re finally breaking ground today,” Huppert said, noting deposits have been placed on all six units that are to be completed as part of the first phase of the project, with reservations currently being accepted for the project’s second phase.

“It shows how hot the Tacoma market is,” commented Baarsma, no stranger to these type of events during his tenure as mayor.

Hot, indeed, as the overall project includes a plan for 23 loft-style condominiums and 3,400 square feet of commercial space in a refurbished Marcourt Building on Market Street, a mere three blocks away. A ground floor parking garage is planned as well.

The developer is also considering building 85 apartments near the Marcourt Building.

“We’ve been working diligently for 18 months to bring this project to the starting line,” Huppert said during opening remarks.

The end product will include homes that range in size from 1,400 square feet to over 2,000 square feet, each with a private garage. A few select units will be offered as live/work opportunities with storefronts at the street level. The design team has placed special emphasis on air quality, energy efficiency, comfort and durability for homeowners. Current plans for the “naturally modern” project include drought tolerant landscaping, natural rainwater management, stone surfaces and wood finishing touches, some of which will be milled from trees on the site.

A side benefit to be offered includes car-free urban living, as Triangle Townhomes will be located just a few blocks away from Tacoma’s Link light rail line.

Event speakers were quick to praise the cooperation between the city and the developer in making the project a reality.

Those who feared the city’s “blue-collar history and tux-and-tails culture” would not mix have been proven wrong by Triangle Townhomes and other projects, Baarsma said.

“Tacoma is a developer’s dream,” he said, citing Tacoma’s streamlined permitting process and the project’s recently being awarded a ten-year property tax abatement by the city as part of an incentive program created by the Washington State Legislature to promote smart, infill development in urban locations.

Baarsma also had kind words for Catapult for being the first private developer to participate in the city’s HUB and LEAP programs. Historically Under-utilized Business (HUB) is a program that aims to create better contracting opportunities for small, local businesses, and the Local Employment and Apprenticeship Program (LEAP) is intended to increase training opportunities and reduce unemployment.

“These things don’t happen without a certain degree of cooperation between the public and private sectors,” said Rich Bennion, executive vice president of HomeStreet Bank in Seattle.

HomeStreet Bank, one of the largest privately-owned banks in the Pacific Northwest, is providing acquisition and development financing for Triangle Townhomes.

“I think it’s going to be a fantastic project,” said Doug Yost, vice president of the Pacific Northwest region of Weyerhaeuser Realty Investors Inc. “I’m very excited to do business here.”

Weyerhaeuser Realty Investors Inc., a Seattle-based provider of equity capital, is funding a mezzanine loan to assist with the development of the project.

The key to downtown development includes getting people to live in the community, Bennion pointed out.

Triangle Townhomes is continuing to support downtown Tacoma’s renaissance, Huppert said.

Baarsma agreed, stating the project benefits Tacoma by creating a vibrant downtown community.

“That really is the key to downtown,” he said.

Baarsma ended his remarks with a little mayoral humor: “Triangle Townhomes – by golly, you’d have to be a square not to want to live here.”

The ceremony concluded with Baarsma, Huppert, Bennion, Yost and Monica Alliegro of Catapult – of course – grabbing shovels and turning some dirt.