Economic development boom continues for Tacoma in 2018

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The $150 million Convention Center Hotel project, supported by Chinese investor Chun Yang, is under construction and Phase I will open in 2020. Photo courtesy of City of Tacoma

Tacoma is crane city. Cranes are up for Point Ruston, The Napoleon, a 135-unit apartment building at Tacoma Avenue South, and the Convention Center Hotel project. In second quarter 2018, the crane will go up for the Town Center project. And what’s certain is that more will follow.

Much of this development in 2018 across Tacoma got its start last year, described by city leaders as a banner year for economic development.

“2017 was a phenomenal year,” said Elly Walkowiak, assistant director of community and economic development. “There was amazing growth in all different sectors. You saw the rise of the multifamily sector and a balanced economy; it hit all the marks. There was the implementation of foreign investments in the city and that represents the largest projects in the downtown.”

The rise of the multifamily sector was marked by 810 new units breaking ground in 2017. There are now future plans for more than 1,238 multifamily transit-oriented development units. Now under construction are the 172-unit Stadium Apartments in Stadium District; The Napoleon; the 139-unit Grand on Broadway, which will include commercial space; the 35-unit Madison25 on Proctor Street; and the 104-unit KOZ, which are fully-furnished 250-400 square-foot apartments adjacent to the UW-Tacoma campus. In the planning phase is the 115-unit TRAX @ Tacoma Dome.

A significant reason for commercial and multifamily housing growth downtown was attributed to a cascade of foreign investment.

The $150 million Convention Center Hotel project that broke ground last summer,  set to open in 2020, is backed by Chinese investor Chun Yang, CEO of Shanghai Mintong Real Estate Company. Town Center that broke ground late last year is a $125 million project that includes housing, retail and office space and is backed by Chinese investor Luo Xun Kun. Finally, The Hailey that broke ground in October 2017 is a $43 million mixed-use housing project located next to the Tacoma Public Library and is backed by Vietnamese investors the Hoang Quan Group. Although their ownership structure is local, The Napoleon and Point Ruston also are supported by significant shares in EB-5 investment, the federal immigrant investor program.

Walkowiak said these foreign investments were procured through relationships forged many years ago. For example, former Mayor Marilyn Strickland’s travels to Vietnam ultimately cultivated investment from that country and led to the development of The Hailey.

Meanwhile, much is to be said about the significant growth of industrial development in the Tideflats region of Tacoma. Three new multi-million dollar industrial centers will open over the next several years comprising Prologis Park, IPT Logistics Center and DCT Blair Logistics Center. Total build-out across all three centers is 3.9 million square feet. The centers will attract new employers providing 1,000-3,000 new high-paying jobs. Other industrial development includes: Tool Gauge expanding in Tacoma; Netherlands-based NewCold storage development under construction; and Bradken expanding in Tacoma with a total investment of $12.5 million.

“In terms of job creation and unit construction, this will be a banner year,” Walkowiak said.

Kim Bedier, interim director of economic and community development, said the City is prepared to take advantage of the compression factor it’s experiencing from Seattle, whether that’s in housing or business.

“Tacoma is becoming newly discovered, offering new business opportunities,” Bedier said.

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