Historic buildings in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood to be renovated

Tacoma News TribuneFebruary 4, 2014 

The Kellogg-Sicker building, site of the former Browne's Star Grill, and the Pochert Building on Martin Luther King Way have been sold to private developers Kevin Grossman, Patrick Rhodes and John Hunt, who plan to renovate the historic buildings into ground-floor retail and upstairs apartments. Photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014.

KATHLEEN COOPER — Staff Writer Buy Photo

Two 100-year-old buildings on the main street of Tacoma's Hilltop, vacant for almost a decade, have a new owner and a chance at new life.

Businessmen Kevin Grossman, Patrick Rhodes and John Hunt bought the historic Kellogg-Sicker and Pochert buildings on the 1100  block of Martin Luther King Way.

The City of Tacoma had bought the buildings and two other adjacent parcels in the early 2000s in an attempt to clean up the block. It closed down the Browne's Star Grill, which had been open since the 1960s but that police and neighbors said had become a magnet for criminal activity. The city entered into a development agreement with Grossman last fall.

Grossman, Rhodes and Hunt plan to renovate the buildings with ground-floor retail and about 10 units of housing on the second floors. The trio paid $120,000 for the buildings and estimate the renovation will ring in at about $1.5 million.

"That stretch between the hospitals has a lot of potential, and the light rail is just gravy," Hunt said Tuesday, referring to Sound Transit's plans to expand the Link along MLK Way.

The 10 units will be a combination of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, Hunt said. The retail splits naturally into three spaces, including one for a restaurant.

The Hilltop Business District is building a drumbeat of success. Several Tacoma institutions like LeLe Restaurant and Johnson Candy Company have been joined by local art gallery Fulcrum, bar-and-bike-workshop combo Broken Spoke, tavern Eleven Eleven, and the restaurant/craft cocktail makers at Hilltop Kitchen.

Grossman also is president of the Hilltop Business Association.

As part of the sale, the city required the new owners to begin work within 45 days of closing the sale -- sometime in March, based on the Jan. 24 closing date. Grossman said in an email that workers will be on site sooner than that.

Another requirement is to work collaboratively with the Tacoma Housing Authority, which is trying to buy the two city-owned parcels immediately next door to the Kellogg-Sicker and Pochert buildings. If it can find financing, THA plans to construct a new building on the corner of MLK Way and Ernest S. Brazill Street that would have ground floor retail and 40 apartment units intended for people with a varity of income levels. If that project falls through, Grossman and his partners have first right of refusal to buy the parcels.

THA director Michael Mirra said Tuesday his agency also is trying to purchase the New Look Senior Apartments building on the north end of the 1100 block of MLK Way.

Rhodes also is part owner of the downtown post office building, which he bought with George Heidgerken in 2010. Hunt has been managing property for Rhodes since 2012.

"Tacoma is way underdeveloped," Rhodes said Tuesday, adding that he has his eye on some other properties around town. "I like what Tacoma has to offer. And we're fond of messing around with old buildings."


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