Downtown Tacoma businesses told about roadwork, city says

Tacoma News TribuneApril 18, 2014 

The City of Tacoma notified businesses near the site of planned roadwork the way it normally does: Postcards with details about meetings where people can learn more, a city project manager said Friday.

One business owner and another business's general manager told The News Tribune on Thursday that they weren't aware of the city's plans to re-align two downtown streets near the University of Washington Tacoma campus this summer, though the plans have been in the works for a year.

Project manager Darius Thompson said the city sent postcards, spoke to the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council and the Hillside Development Council, briefed a bicycle advocacy group and the Downtown Merchants Group, and informed the city's Transportation Commission.

Thompson said that officials from UWT, which is paying for the $1.25 million project, also said they planned to notify the Old Spaghetti Factory and The Swiss, both of whom are UWT tenants.

"I'm not sure why they felt left out, but we're not too far along where we can't have meetings with them and get their feedback," Thompson said.

The city plans to re-align South 17th Street and Jefferson Avenue beginning in July. The bulk of the work will happen in front of TwoKoi Japanese Cuisine. While the owners are happy with the project overall, they're concerned about the final placement of a loading zone for their restaurant in the Carlton Center, which is at the intersection of South 17th Street and Commerce Street.

"Overall it's a very exciting project," said Judi Hyman, whose family is a partner in TwoKoi and who runs its operations. "We consider ourselves a destination restaurant. We plan to be here for decades. But we're a little nervous. Not knowing where the loading zone will be for a restaurant is a big deal."

The ideal spot would be on Commerce Street, Hyman said, but city officials aren't sure the street is wide enough. Additionally, installation of a new loading zone isn't part of the UWT's financing plans, so someone else would have to foot the bill. Even that cost is uncertain: Thompson said a rough estimate was $20,000, and Hyman said she's heard $30,000.

"I know the building owner wouldn't want to pay the $30,000. I know I don't have the $30,000," she said.

Thompson said other options include locations that would involve crossing the street, which both he and Hyman said clearly isn't ideal. City engineers are working on it.

"We have to get them a loading zone, so we'll figure that out," he said.

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