Year In Review — Cascadia RIP

Welcome to what was supposed to be Cascadia, the vision of developer Patrick Kuo, president and CEO of Cascadia Development Corp. The company purchased 4,200 acres of land from Weyerhauser in 1991 and set out to build the largest master-planned community in Pierce County: 6,500 homes, a hotel, three golf courses, seven schools, a fire station, trails, parks, retail village, amphitheater, and discovery center. It’s probably easier to list the amenities Cascadia wasn’t going to offer. Cascadia Development Corp. broke ground on the project in 2005 and expected its first residents and business owners to arrive by 2007. The project’s Web site offered stock photos of what life would be like at Cascadia: an older couple enjoying a bottle of red wine; a mother passing out candy from her front door on Halloween; a woman working on her laptop computer in a park; and a crowd listening to live music on a sunny day.

None of this ever happened.

According to the Bonney Lake & Sumner Courier-Herald, Kuo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 15 — one day before HomeStreet Bank was set to auction off a majority of the site. The bank had foreclosed on approximately $75 million in loans. Kuo hoped bankruptcy protection would allow him to get the project’s finances in order. In September, however, a federal bankruptcy court judge in Seattle ruled that HomeStreet could go ahead with an auction. One week later, parcels were auctioned off in the lobby of the County-City building in Tacoma.

What does the biggest residential-commercial development project in Pierce County look like when everyone walks away before it’s finished?

In September, the Tacoma Daily Index visited Cascadia to survey the ruins. Sub-divisions never completed have most of the infrastructure of a quiet suburban street: sidewalks, curb ramps, street lights (Have they ever been turned on? If so, why?), and medians. But instead of beautiful homes and lush front lawns, visitors will find seas of dirt lots with thin white stakes sticking up. The stakes are marked either “Sewer” or “Drain” or “Storm.” Weeds of different varieties and colors have grown nearly as tall as the stakes. Some stakes have been broken off and thrown in the street to join a collection of other garbage: shattered PVC pipes, empty cans of Busch beer, an old tire, and an orange plastic traffic cylinder that was run over and flattened.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage, click on the following links:

Paradise Lost: Surveying the ruins of a $75M development debacle — or