The City of Tacoma wants to know why so few developers loved the idea of buying and developing a key city-owned tract downtown.
Only one developer, Commencement Bay Development of Tacoma, last month responded with a proposal for the 6.5-acre site near the University of Washington Tacoma.
That broad proposal contained in a two-page letter did not meet the standard the city had set for a formal proposal, said Elly Walkowiak, a city development official, on Tuesday. Commencement Bay proposed purchasing the site and then preparing a master plan.
The city wanted a more detailed plan before any sale. It had sent information to some 160 potential developers all along the West Coast, said Walkowiak, and received just the single response.
“We’re in a due diligence period now,” she said. “We’re going to talk with a representative sample of developers to determine why the interest was not stronger.”
The city bought the tract between Jefferson and Tacoma avenues and South 21st and South 23rd streets intending to build a police headquarters there.
The tract is a natural site for university-oriented housing and retail uses, but Walkowiak said developers may have been concerned that the supply of new multifamily housing units on the drawing boards would have made for a weak market.
“We’ve counted up some 2,000 multifamily units now in the planning stage in Tacoma,” she said. “Perhaps developers thought that the number of units being built on private land would be enough to satisfy the demand for now.”
The city also intends to ask developers if there are other issues that kept them from making proposals. Was the tract too large? Do developers prefer a private negotiation process to the public proposal process?
Walkowiak and her boss, Ricardo Noguera, head of the city’s Economic Development Department, will make a recommendation to city manager T.C. Broadnax on how to proceed.