City staff reviewing proposals for future of Old City Hall

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Tacoma’s Economic Development staffers are now reviewing five proposals the city received from its call for ideas on the future use of Old City Hall.

The review of those mixed-use proposals will last about a month, with a recommendation forwarding to the city manager on future steps expected in September.

“We are delighted that developers throughout the Seattle-Tacoma region have responded to our Request for Proposals for the adaptive reuse of Old City Hall,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards in a release that included summaries of the proposals. “This demonstrates the strength of our marketplace and great interest in repositioning this unique structure to meet community needs for the next century.”

Four of the five proposals have ties to Tacoma, while the fifth hails from Seattle.
Gerald Allan Hennessey, chief executive officer of Tacoma-based Bentley Kensington, Inc., for example, envisions Old City Hall becoming a mixed-use development with 46 market-rate loft apartments over 34,311 square feet of the building with another 17,000 square feet being dedicated to micro-retail marketplaces. Another 9,000 square feet would become home to a bar and grill as well as the Tacoma History Museum. The development team consists of Ferguson Architecture, Swenson-Say-Faget Structural Engineering, Gene Grulich Planning Services, Absher Construction, First Western Properties, BRC Acoustics & Audiovisual Design and the Intrepid Law Group.

Eric Cederstrand, president of Tacoma’s Commencement Bay Development, LLC filed a proposal that would include 40,000 square feet of historic Class A office, which is in hot demand downtown. Other areas of the building include shared work spaces and laboratory facilities. About 5,000 square feet of the building would be used for retail options and another 5,000 square feet would house food and beverage operations. The specifics of the tenant mix would come from advisory board comprised of representatives from University of Washington Tacoma, and the information technology and real estate sectors.

Donald M. Golden, chief executive officer of Greenspring in Tacoma, has a proposal with a more artsy approach an art gallery, artist space and offices on the Pacific Avenue side of the building, small retail shops on the Commerce Street side and research facilities on the second floor. The third and fourth flows would offer 20 affordable housing units for artists’ live/work studios, and then a wellness studio in the penthouse. Nathan Schlundt and Associates will be the historic preservation expert.

Eli Moreno, managing member of Surge Tacoma, proposes a mixed-use project with a restaurant in the basement and bar on Pacific Avenue, nearly 20,000 square feet of retail space on the first and second floors, more than 20,000 square feet of office and shared working space for a technology center on the third and fourth floors. The fifth floor would house 40 micro apartments on the fifth floor that would be a mix of market and affordable rates. The rooftop atrium would be two restaurants and event space. The development team consists of Harlow & Falk LLP, NBS Financial, Pacific Engineering, Easyway Contractors, CBRE and Artifacts Consulting, Inc.

The out of town proposal comes from Seattle-based Urban Villages’ Grant McCargo. He proposed a mixed-use development with city-leased and managed business incubator space on the lower floors. The proposal also calls for 110 furnished micro, short-term housing units on the second, third and fourth floors. The fifth floor and clock tower would offer eateries and event spaces. The development team includes Chinn Construction, Swenson-Say-Faget Engineering and Heritage Consulting Group.

The city bought 125-year-old Old City Hall three years ago for $4 million when it was appraised for just $1.6 million because the previous owner, the Stratford Co., had allowed the building to being to fall into disrepair. A previous call for proposals included the $4 million and gained no serious interest with developers. The second call, however, didn’t include a set price tag and gained the five proposals currently under review.

“The renovation of Old City Hall will add to the vitality of the evolving St. Helen’s District, which will celebrate McMenamins’ opening in 2019,” said City Manager Elizabeth Pauli.

Whatever future use of Old City Hall will ultimately house, the operations will be high profile since Old City Hall is a major landmark in the city and located in a section of downtown that is increasingly becoming an entertainment hub, most notably because of the much-anticipated renovation of former Elks Temple. Portland-based McMenamins is spending $34 million to turn the long-mothballed facility into a niche hotel and entertainment center by next spring.

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