Area projects show comeback for apartments is in force

Staff writerJanuary 26, 2014 

Here is a handful of new residential projects in the South Sound built on the sites of recession-killed projects. The Tacoma projects are designed for a wide range of renter needs. Two projects will offer water views, one of the downtown waterfront and the other of Commencement Bay and Browns Point. Others, like The Proctor, tout their neighborhood amenities. Prices will range from the less expensive end of the spectrum, such as the lofts planned for the old Spring Air mattress factory, to the pricier end of the cost range such as the Point Ruston projects:

• In Tacoma, a developer who had spent a reported $1 million preparing a site along the Thea Foss Waterway for a mixed-use construction project, Prium Cos., walked away from the deal five years ago. That site is now the ground on which a 165-unit apartment, The Henry, is to be built by another developer.

• In Kent, work was halted on an ambitious retail, hotel and residential project before the recession after three floors of the concrete base of the building were erected. That plot now is the site of a mixed-use apartment and retail structure now topped out at its fifth floor.

• At Point Ruston, near Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, developer Mike Cohen has completed his midrise Copperline apartment structure atop the four-story garage whose construction lay dormant for more than three years while the housing market recovered. Cohen and his backers have started a second mixed-use structure and plan to begin a third multiuse building before the year is out.

Cohen also is building condominiums across the street from the Copperline as the market for those homes begins to re-emerge.

• In Auburn’s downtown, where a longtime business was demolished on a key block to make way for an ambitious mixed-use building that wasn’t built, a new developer has stepped in with a plan to build apartments and retail space. Groundbreaking for that project was in October. An adjacent two-block parcel has been acquired by another developer who likewise plans to create multifamily housing near the city’s commuter rail station.

The rising demand for new housing also has spawned other plans for new apartments:

• In Tacoma’s Proctor business district, a six-story development is near groundbreaking near Mason Middle School. That building, The Proctor, will contain 139 apartment units, a garage and retail space. Some neighbors are fighting the building’s planned construction, saying the structure is too large for the neighborhood.

• In an area between downtown Tacoma and the Stadium District, where multifamily construction boomed after the turn of the century, a third phase of the successful Metropolitan Apartments is scheduled to begin construction soon. The development, to be called the Grand on Broadway, will have 145 housing units.

• Farther south near the University of Washington Tacoma campus, where apartment, condominium and townhouse construction flourished before the downturn, developer Paul McCormick is planning a 100-unit apartment project between Yakima and I streets at South 25th Street.

Those Tacoma and South Sound projects are the closest to becoming realities, said Elly Walkowiak, business development manager for Tacoma, but the city is tracking the progress of hundreds more units that could be built if the market remains strong for apartments.

Among those projects are the revivals of several that were on the fast track before the recession hit.

• The former Spring Air mattress factory on Puyallup Avenue was once planned for apartments and mixed use, but that plan died after housing demand fell. The developer put the structure up for sale, but he failed to find a buyer. Now Jim Sari, the developer, says he’s in advanced talks with the city about constructing lofts in the building aimed at tenants who commute to Seattle, among others. The building is within easy walking distance of the Freighthouse Square Sounder station from which commuter trains leave for Seattle. Construction could begin this year on the structure, which would include several live-work units.

• Local developers Herb Simon and Ted Johnson have taken their plans out of mothballs for three residential towers north of the Murray Morgan Bridge on the west side of the Thea Foss Waterways.

The developers had spent several years dealing with zoning issues and height restrictions on the proposed project before putting those plans in storage when the recession began. Now they’ve begun preliminary discussions again with the city of Tacoma to iron out final issues standing in the way of construction. Johnson said that construction start, if it happens, is possibly two years away.

Also in the planning process are residential units on the site of the former Brownes Star Grill on Martin Luther King Jr. Way near South 12th Street, a 100-unit development in the Stadium District, a 40-unit residential development near the Tacoma Dome, a 46-unit residential structure near South 21st and Commerce streets, a 100-unit residential building near South 13th Street and Fawcett Avenue, and several other projects totaling several hundred more units scattered throughout and near the downtown area.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john.gillie@

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