Tacoma officials say they’ll temporarily overlook several code violations at the 120-year-old Old City Hall building so they can focus on fixing its leaking roof — a project they want to move forward with this month.
They have tentatively scheduled a hearing for Sept. 18 to decide how to proceed with repairing the roof of Old City Hall’s northeast tower.
A city inspector said in July that the roof has failed on the building at 625 Commerce St.
Other code violations a city building inspector found in July included a lack of working bathrooms, masonry pieces falling on the sidewalk, a leaning staircase and disconnected power and water service.
Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax said he plans to request a 45-day continuance on those parts of the city’s dangerous building complaint so the city and the building owner can address the issues with the roof.
The other aspects of the city’s complaint can be discussed later, Broadnax wrote in an Aug. 29 letter to The Stratford Company, a Seattle group that purchased Old City Hall in 2005 with plans to turn it into condos.
City officials have expressed concern that the roof should be fixed before the rainy Northwest winter arrives and further damages the interior. The structure, built in 1893, served as Tacoma’s municipal headquarters until 1959.
At the Sept. 18 hearing, Tacoma officials will ask a city hearing official to decide whether the city can proceed with the roof repairs on its own or whether the work should be left in the hands of the building owners.
City officials are hoping to reach an agreement with the owners before then, which could allow repairs to proceed with fewer delays, said Tansy Hayward, Tacoma’s assistant city manager and director of neighborhood and community services.
“Our goal is to be able to move and mobilize quickly,” Hayward said.
If no agreement occurs, Tacoma will ask the hearing official for an order allowing the city to enter the building to complete the work without the owners’ consent, Hayward said.
Either way, the city would recover the cost of the roof repairs by placing a lien against the property, she said.
In the meantime, Tacoma officials want to begin designing a new roof for Old City Hall’s northeast tower as soon as possible – even before the hearing official has a chance to rule.
In his Aug. 29 letter, Broadnax said he wants the city to begin design work for the roof prior to the hearing, with hopes that the plans could be completed and approved by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission Sept. 25.
Broadnax asked Stratford to sign an access agreement that would allow city workers to enter the building as soon as next week.
As of Friday afternoon, Stratford representatives had yet to formally respond, but the company hasn’t told city officials that it will deny them access, Hayward said.
Stratford representatives previously have said that, besides the roof, most of the code violations will be fixed when the company finishes converting Old City Hall into apartments. But it’s uncertain when that will be, wrote CEO George Webb in an email Aug. 27.
Webb said acquiring financing is still the main factor, “as it has been since the financial crisis.”
Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209