Foss Waterway Development Authority planning marketing of additional sites along downtown waterway

Staff writerJune 12, 2014 

Tacomans could be seeing additional development along Dock Street near the Murray Morgan Bridge if the Foss Waterway Development Authority is successful with new marketing efforts for three sites near the historic bridge.

The authority is in the early stages of planning for marketing of two parcels just south of the bridge, which carries East 11th Street over the near-downtown waterway.  And it plans to ask for proposals from developers this summer for a third parcel north of the bridge.

Su Dowie, the authority's executive director, said the authority is seeking grant money from the state Department of Commerce to hire planners, to study how best to make the two parcels south of the bridge attractive to developers.

Those two sites, labeled Sites 8 and 9 by the authority, aren't without potential issues. Both are fairly narrow -- 100 feet or so -- and have contamination problems as a legacy of their past uses, said Dowie.

Those sites were once home to a metal foundry and a steam plant that served downtown Tacoma buildings.

"North of South 15th Street, the sites become significantly narrower," said Dowie.  Sites the authority has sold for new development south of 15th are typically 200 to 250 feet wide.

Development on those wider parcels has included several condominium and apartment buildings, the Museum of Glass and a major park.  One of those sites is also slated to become home to two hotels.

"The largest issue on the parcels north of 15th is parking," said Dowie.

The study that the authority hopes to commission will suggest likely uses for those narrow sites and make recommendations how they could be made more attractive for construction. The authority hopes to see the results of that study by the end of the year.

The site north of the bridge, which the authority labels Site 10, now is home to several low storage buildings.  The land lease for those storage structures is due to expire in February.  Dowie said the authority, with permission of its board, plans to issue a request for proposals for that site later this summer.  Site 10 is north of the former site of the Municipal Dock, which abutted the bridge.  The City of Tacoma demolished the dock several years ago because it had become structurally dangerous.

The dock was once the terminal for fleets of boats that carried residents to waterfront destinations around Puget Sound.

The Thea Foss Waterway was once the home of several industrial uses including a plywood mill, the steam plant, a coal plant and other uses.  Beginning in 1996, when the City of Tacoma established the Foss Waterway Development Authority, the waterway has been cleaned up and gentrified with new residences, restaurants and marinas.


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