People plan to gather Wednesday evening for what is being called the “Preserve Proctor Kickoff Meeting,” a move in response to lingering anger over a large mixed-use building currently rising in the neighborhood and the prospect of another.
The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the meeting room of the Wheelock Library, 3722 North 26th St.
Proctor Station, a six-story retail and apartment building, is being built on Proctor and North 28th streets. The development team also is planning a similar mixed-use project on Proctor and North 25th streets, across from the Metropolitan Market.
Many neighborhood residents aren’t happy. There is unhappiness over Proctor Station, which some consider to be out of scale and a step toward ruining the character of an old Tacoma neighborhood. Others, including two of the local men involved in the development, say Proctor’s future depends on more dense living.
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The potential of a second building has led to neighborhood organizing. It also has led to a lot of questions about how 6-story buildings became legal under city zoning.
I took a tour through our archives to put together this time line. I’ve provided links when possible, and excerpted from some of the news reports when the point seemed particularly apt.
This timeline isn’t meant to be exhaustive. I was going for the highlights. Please alert me if I’ve missed a key date or other development.
The focus on dense development started in 1995. That’s when state law began to allow cities to exempt newly developed portions of some projects, in come areas, from property taxes for 10 years. The idea was to provide another tool to encourage development in line with the state’s Growth Management Act. Rather than building more neighborhoods of single-family homes, the state law was meant to funnel population growth into mixed-use areas.
1996: The city of Tacoma adopted the property tax exemption.
November 1999: Bill Evans, one of the principals on Proctor Station and the second proposed development, was elected to the Tacoma City Council for the 2000-2004 term.
November 2003: Evans re-relected for the 2004-2008 term.
May 2005: Evans considers quitting council over conflict. News Tribune reporter Kris Sherman wrote:
Tacoma City Councilman Bill Evans is considering resigning from the council due to a conflict between his civic duties and his personal interests as a Proctor District business owner and developer, he said Tuesday.
The ethical quandary involves his partnership in developments that depend on 10-year property tax breaks from the city “in order to pencil out,” Evans said.
One of them, a plan to build a European-style mix of retail, commercial and condominium units in a Proctor District parking lot, was pulled from City Council consideration twice in the last two weeks.
Evans said he was advised by City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli that a council vote on the project, which involved a contract between the city and Proctor Partners LLC, would have violated the city charter because Evans has more than a “remote” interest in the development.
He’s a partner in the venture, which sought the tax exemption for six market-rate condominiums to be built in a parking lot at 2710 N. Proctor St. and sold for between $300,000 and $400,000 per unit.
“I was under the naive impression that I could recuse myself,” and not participate in discussions or vote on the issue, Evans said. He added he thought the 10-year property-tax exemption wouldn’t benefit him directly because it goes to the buyer of the home, not the developer.
Now, Evans said, he must decide whether to resign from the council, dissolve his partnership or seek other legal opinions. He doesn’t plan to challenge Pauli’s advice.
The longstanding rule – generally 45 feet, or four stories — no longer works for new development investors who must cover mushrooming land prices, squeeze parking into their building footprint and still construct enough saleable space to get a return on their investment.
If you need evidence that the 45-foot-limit has become a barrier, just look around at Tacoma’s neighborhood business districts. From Proctor to Lower Portland Avenue and Lincoln to South Tacoma, what’s happening with commercial development?
“There has been little or no new development in our urban villages in forever,” said Bill Evans, a city councilman and Proctor District merchant. “You have to ask yourself the question, ‘Why?’ ”
“One size doesn’t necessarily fit all,” said David Boe, principal of BOE Architects and a Planning Commission member. “Sixty-five feet in Proctor would be a huge building. On Martin Luther King Way, maybe it’s not.”
Here is a link to the city’s page on the mixed-use centers review, which has a ton of stuff.
January 2008: Marilyn Strickland begins her term on the City Council in the seat formerly held by Evans, who was term limited.
May 2008: The Tacoma Planning Commission is considering a proposal that would raise the maximum height in some of the city’s mixed-use centers up to an additional 20 feet, to 65 feet, if developments included certain bonus features into their plans, such as affordable housing, public art, or ground-floor retail or restaurant space.
August 2008: The city publishes public comment on the plans. This file is a PDF and is large. That same month, News Tribune reporter Niki Sullivan reported on the zoning changes:
The process to encourage development in specific pockets around the city started in 1993, when the city established neighborhood business districts and allowed greater development in those areas. The idea, (Councilman Tom) Stenger said, was to decrease sprawl and, through zoning, encourage businesses and residents to fill in areas within city limits.
In 2007, the city reviewed and tweaked the mixed-use zones. Now the Planning Commission is wrapping up a review of the zoning requirements.
The commission will pass its recommendations on to the City Council.
Also in 2008, the city tweaked the multi-family tax exemption program to allow for a longer exemption term (12 years) if the project has at least 20 percent of units designated as “affordable housing.” Otherwise the standard exemption is 8 years. (See chart.)
A year later, July 2009: The City Council takes up the changes. Melissa Santos reports:
The Tacoma City Council is set to vote Tuesday on new development regulations for Tacoma’s mixed-use centers, which aim in part to increase density in commercial centers and allow taller buildings.
Updates to the mixed-use center plan have been under discussion since 2007, involving more than 50 public hearings. The plan aims to focus Tacoma’s future population growth in 16 centers to prevent sprawl and foster economic development.
The city mailed 10,000 notices to residents on about July 20 informing them of proposed amendments to the mixed-use center zoning ordinance, including the proposal to expand zones known as “height bonus areas.”
The council unanimously approved changes to mixed-use centers with the amendment to widen the possible zones and add “height bonus” to 85’ in some zones. In Proctor, the height bonus would allow for buildings no taller than 65’.
June 2014: The City Council approves an 8-year tax exemption for Proctor Station.