Tacoma one step closer to waterfront revival

September 01, 2002 |

With the recent unveiling of the much anticipated Museum of Glass along its waterfront, the City of Tacoma, Wash., has reached a milestone in its master plan to revitalize its once-dilapidated waterfront and adjacent urban areas. The plan, which is anchored by the $89 million, 220,000-sq.-ft. Tacoma Convention Center, includes more than a dozen public and private projects.

On July 6, ceremonies were held for the grand opening of the Museum of Glass. The $48 million museum, designed by world-renowned architect Arthur Erickson, features a tilted, 90-ft.-tall, stainless-steel cone, and connects downtown via the newly completed, 500-ft.-long Chihuly Bridge of Glass pedestrian bridge, which spans Interstate 705.

The Museum of Glass is one of four new museums planned along the waterfront as part of a five-museum campus. Most notable is the 50,000-sq.-ft. Tacoma Art Museum, designed by Antoine Predock of Albuquerque, N.M. Construction of the $22 million, stainless-steel-clad facility is approximately 85% complete, and will be finished in May 2003. The two other museums in the works are the Harold E. LeMay Car Museum, which is expected to be completed sometime in 2005, and the Pioneer Motorcycle Museum, which breaks ground this month, and is set to open in fall of 2003. The new museums will be within walking distance of the existing Washington State History Museum.

Joining the museums on the waterfront will be three private, mixed-used projects. Currently under construction, the $35 million, seven-story Thea's Landing project will include 234 apartments and condos, 19,000 sq. ft. of retail and underground parking for 400. The two other projects — The Albers Mill and Foss Marine — are currently in the design phase. Both involve adaptive-reuse of historic industrial buildings.

A portion of the waterfront adjacent to these developments is also receiving a facelift, thanks to the $3 million Foss Esplanade. It includes a walkway/bikeway, public event plazas, marinas and shops. Moreover, the city is currently finalizing plans for the $35 million cleanup of the Thea Foss and Wheeler-Osgood waterways. If plans are approved, the city will enter into a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up 80% of the waterway. Three companies — Puget Sound Energy, PacifiCorp and Advance Ross Sub Co. — are negotiating a separate Consent Decree with the EPA to clean up the remaining 20%.

Light-rail system

Just across I-705, the convention center is the largest of several public and private projects, including an adjacent, six-story hotel, a 1.65-acre public plaza and the $41 million renovation of three historic industrial buildings into classrooms by the University of Washington.

Finally, last December, the city began work on the $22.5 million Tacoma Link of the Sound Transit light-rail system. The 1.6-mile line will include five stations and will stretch from Freighthouse Square near the Tacoma Dome arena to downtown Tacoma. The light-rail system, which is expected to be completed in fall 2003, will also include a stop at the front door of the convention center.

"Together with the convention center, these projects are helping re-energize downtown Tacoma," says Ming Zhang vice president and principal with MulvannyG2, design architect for the convention center.

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