Changes afoot in Tacoma Mall neighborhoods

The draft of a subarea plan for the Tacoma Mall area of the city faces a public hearing next week as the city tries to balance commercial growth in the area with residential living. photos Courtesy of City of Tacoma

Residents, businesses and owners of property around the Tacoma Mall can learn more about, and comment on, the city’s subarea plan to manage growth and livability in the area at a public hearing on April 24.

Tacoma City Council will hold a public hearing on the 280-page plan at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, in the Tacoma Municipal Building Council Chambers. The draft plan is then set for a study session and first vote on May 1, with a final adoption the following week. 

The draft plan, which has been developing over the last four years, includes a vision for that 575-acre neighborhood of the city as well as goals and action plans to boost economic growth in the area as well as curb congestion and increase quality of life for its residents. The Tacoma Mall neighborhood is home to 4,650 people and supports some 9,749 jobs, making it the fastest growing economic area of the city. The plan sets the targets of adding 8,385 new jobs and 8,887 additional residents in the next 20 years. That translates into about 3 million square feet of new commercial space and 4 million square feet of residential space in a neighborhood that has few vacant lands available.

Key goals include promoting job growth and the area economy, providing transportation choices, improving livability and community health, protecting the environment, and empowering stakeholders to craft their own community solutions. What makes the Tacoma Mall subarea plan is that the comprehensive look at planned changes in the area actually dives deep into the four distinct neighborhoods within the area: the mall, Lincoln Heights, Northwest and Madison. The planning area is bordered by South Tacoma Way to the west and north; Interstate 5 to the east; and South 48th and South 49th Streets to the south.

“There are some aspects that hold all the areas together and some that are very specific to the particular neighborhood,” said Associate Planner Elliott Barnett. “This is really trying to do a lot in one document.”

Suggested street redesigns, buffer-zone landscaping, population and job projections and zoning changes are detailed for each of the neighborhoods as well as the planning area in general. In general, the draft plan reduces the Regional Growth Center boundary along the northwestern boundary, increases building heights and residential density in the Madison neighborhood, calls for bike and walking paths as well as supports efforts for more parks and open spaces while expanding the job-center boundaries around the Tacoma Mall. In total, about $100 million in capital improvements in the area are in the works during the next 20 years.

“By 2040 the Tacoma Mall Neighborhood will be a thriving center of regional significance and a distinctive, connected, livable and healthy place with a wide range of opportunities for all people to live, work, invest and fulfill their potential,” according to the draft plan. “Already an important employment and population center, the neighborhood is expected to receive a significant portion of the city’s future housing and employment growth. The vision is for a compact, pedestrian-friendly, urban mixed-use neighborhood with a high quality of life, which includes access to healthy lifestyle choices, services and efficient multimodal transportation options. In addition to accommodating growth, the proposals include actions to address long-standing neighborhood issues.”

The largest single new development is the Tacoma Mall, built in 1965 and slated for changes as shopping trends around the nation shift away from enclosed retail hubs to more lifestyle and entertainment hubs. The Sears store at the Tacoma Mall, for example, has announced plans to leave as the iconic national retailer faces struggles with connecting with modern shoppers. The mall itself is working on redevelopment plans. 

To review the draft Tacoma Mall Neighborhood Subarea Plan, visit or call (253) 591-5389. Written comments may also be submitted at the hearing, or beforehand to the City Clerk’s Office at or 733 Market Street, Room 11, Tacoma, WA 98402, by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24.

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