While celebrity deaths and the presidential campaign of 2016 dominated much of the year’s headlines, local business coverage also had its share of the limelight. Marijuana made way for another popular m-word this year: micro-units.
A look back at some of our bigger business stories this year:
The year started with Amtrak station construction news at Freighthouse Square. The department spent nearly two years working with the Tacoma community to determine where the new station would be and how it would look. The outreach effort came after an initial design met strong criticism from Tacoma civic leaders and residents.
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We did the first of several stories through the year on Tacoma’s rent prices, and results showed Tacoma’s rent hikes were outpacing Seattle’s at the start of 2016, though still cheaper.
People started to wonder whether Tacoma’s methanol plant put on “pause” was the start of an exit strategy.
Kroger’s new concept grocery store, Main & Vine, opened in Gig Harbor, along with Safeway (formerly Haggen, formerly Safeway) making its return to Gig Harbor.
The Haggen grocery bankruptcy drama continued to unfold, with the Haggen name staying on some of the stores and a net loss of three stores from the chain’s original core before its failed expansion.
For the first time in four years, there would not be a toll increase on the Tacoma Narrows bridge.
Plans for Tacoma’s methanol plant were canceled. Amid widespread public criticism of the project and several port commissioners’ signals it had lost their support, the China-backed company behind the $3.6 billion project on the former Kaiser smelter site abandoned the proposal, just days ahead of a key port vote on its lease.
Also in April, the ports of Tacoma and Seattle approved their first big purchase as the Northwest Seaport Alliance: a slate of multimillion-dollar upgrades along the Blair Waterway.
Tacoma Nordstrom’s piano man Juan Perez returned to the store for one last performance, while natural foods store Marlene’s marked 40 years of business. Del’s Feed chain brand slowly transitioned some stores to Tractor Supply.
Spring is always a boon for real estate, and in May we took readers on a tour of Haddaway Hall, (the Weyerhaeuser mansion) which was on the market for $5.5 million.
This was the month the Port of Seattle, which manages Sea-Tac Airport, announced that 90 private contractors were hired to assist with line management. Transportation Security Administration workers would continue to perform necessary security-related duties. The hires were made to ease the epic security lines. The airport also brought in musicians “to reduce passenger stress.”
News of Proctor South emerged, a second 65-foot-tall mixed residential-retail building in Tacoma’s Proctor District.
June offered breaking news that rocketed to the top of our readership charts at the time: the announcement of the Cheesecake Factory coming to the Tacoma Mall.
An equally popular “good news” story also arrived in June for radio station KPLU’s supporters, as details were finalized on the station’s sale. Pacific Lutheran University and Friends of 88.5 FM announced an agreement for the nonprofit group to assume ownership of the station. The purchase price for the station and its assets was $8 million, $7 million in cash plus $1 million of in-kind underwriting announcements to be provided to PLU over 10 years. A “Save KPLU” fundraising effort among the station’s supporters resulted in more than 24,000 donations from over 18,000 donors contributing to the $7 million goal.
Fred Meyer announced plans for online grocery shopping at some stores in the area, starting with Federal Way.
And Tacoma in a few years may become the place to retire, with the announcement in June of a $55 million six-story retirement community at Point Ruston, which could open by fall of 2018. Micro-units started appearing in our 2016 real estate coverage with news of three Tacoma developments, two featuring “micro-apartments.”
This was the month Tacoma’s Commencement Bank and Thurston First announced their merger.
The Tacoma food co-op shutdown came as a surprise to customers, also in July.
The state’s medical pot shops closed, and, to no one’s surprise, state recreational pot sales climbed. The state took in $23.5 million in excise taxes in July, a record. That was up from $20 million in June, according to marijuana data website 502data.com.
In development news, CHI Franciscan Health announced the approval of plans to construct and operate a 60-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital in west Tacoma, and Galaxy Theatre broke ground on The IMAX in Uptown in Gig Harbor, the first one in Pierce County.
Lyft rideshare returned to Tacoma, and micro-units came back on our radar in August with Napoleon Apartments at 1515 Tacoma Ave. S., set to open in late 2017.
A Tacoma union made history by representing recreational cannabis workers.
This was also the month KPLU announced its new call letters, KNKX.
Developers made their presentations for a Chambers Bay hotel adjacent to the golf course. The proposal from Chambers Bay Development LLC was selected later in the year as the first pick for how to develop the county-owned property.
September started with the local food co-op still looking for a new home as its CEO and president took a job in California.
Many were upset over the closure of a Tideflats skating rink that was used by those training for national competition. Another outpouring of frustration was the announcement of a proposal for a fish processing plant and warehouse on the former Weyerhaeuser campus. That proposal later was dropped.
This was the month we took a deeper look into Tacoma’s rent prices, and found that in the previous six months, the average apartment rent in Tacoma increased by $142, or nearly 13 percent.
As September came to a close, Tacoma kratom customers stocked up before the substance was set to join the DEA’s Schedule I drug list. The DEA later postponed the move for further public comment.
This was the month Cabela’s Inc. agreed to be bought by Bass Pro Shops in a $5.5 billion deal. Area shoppers still wonder if there is enough distance on I-5 separating the chains’ two area stores.
Remember the windstorm that wasn’t? Stores, and residents, were prepared, regardless.
Samsung was in the throes of recalling its explosive Note 7, with kiosks emerging at airports to make sure passengers didn’t carry them on planes.
Google Express delivery made its way to the state in October.
Also in October, The Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County released its 2016 major employers list. This year, 215 companies made the cut of those that hire 100 or more full-time-equivalent workers. In 2014, the last time the EDB compiled the information, 203 companies made the list. In the past four EDB surveys, the top five employers in Pierce County have included Joint Base Lewis-McChord, local public school districts, MultiCare Health System, the state of Washington and CHI Franciscan Health. This year, JBLM, at the top of the EDB list, employed 57,120 people.
Readers also learned of Willie Nelson’s ties to Mason County and Tacoma with Forbidden Farms as an approved grower for the musician’s cannabis brand, Willie’s Reserve.
CHI Franciscan and Virginia Mason Health announced plans for a clinical partnership. This followed Franciscan’s announcement of a $484 million phased construction of a new hospital in Silverdale that will eventually lead to closing Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton. The campus could serve patients as early as 2019.
MultiCare Health System announced it was buying two Spokane County hospitals as part of a $425 million acquisition. The Tacoma-based nonprofit health care company is buying Deaconess Hospital in Spokane and Valley Hospital in Spokane Valley, along with the Rockwood clinics, a large chain of primary, specialty and urgent care clinics in the Inland Northwest.
There was no fall slowdown for home sales in the area, as prices rose amid shrinking inventory.
After the presidential election of Donald Trump, local business experts were cautious on what the next administration would mean for local and state trade, with worries over what Trump’s protectionist stance would mean to our trade-dependent state.
Federal Way’s Wild Waves theme park was sold to a Missouri-based real estate investment firm.
Boeing announced a job shuffling of about 1,000 defense-side Kent workers, giving them a new work commute to Tukwila.
Pierce County’s apartment boom continued, with record levels of construction forecast through 2019.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance announced that October had been the strongest in export and import volumes for any October at Seattle and Tacoma’s ports since 2012.
We learned that a Seattle-based real estate firm is set to be the next owner of Tacoma’s Washington Building. We also learned that Black Friday sales weren’t just for conventional retail, but pot shops, too.
The downtown Tacoma hotel project started taking shape with the announcement of a ramp construction for the Tacoma Convention & Trade Center’s garage to bypass the construction site. The ramp construction starts early next year.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced his plans to leave his post to focus on retail innovation for the coffee giant. Some observers think that he may consider an eventual run in politics.
We also learned that a studio apartment in Tacoma is more expensive than a one-bedroom apartment in Toledo, Ohio.
Food is always a popular topic with our readers, and two stories showed innovation coming to the area with food delivery and shopping. UberEats food delivery will start in Tacoma next year, and Amazon is trying out its Amazon Go store in Seattle.
History was made with the sale of the site of the former Tideflats sawmill and plans for redeveloping the site for a warehouse and manufacturing logistics center.
A possible strike involving Tacoma General nurses was averted after marathon talks led to a tentative labor agreement.
Micro-units continued to be in the news, this time near UWT, with innovative built-ins (tables converting from a desk to dining room table, for example) but no additional parking spaces.