Now that the Washington Building has officially sold to Seattle real estate firm Unico Properties, tenants of the 1925 skyscraper are moving out.
The new owners are preparing for a major retrofit of the downtown landmark, which was built before many knew the region is vulnerable to major earthquakes.
The company is in the early design phase for the seismic renovation and will perform testing before finalizing the plan, said Unico director of development Julie Currier in an emailed statement.
Once construction and interior renovations are complete, in summer 2018, the Washington Building’s full 18-floor height will host around 165 apartments with one or two bedrooms, and “live-work” lofts along the ground floor.
Live-work lofts allow a tenant to live in the same space as his or her storefront.
When Unico bought the building in December for $9.8 million, around a dozen tenants were on month-to-month leases, Currier said.
Many tenants of the South 11th Street and Pacific Avenue building had vacated earlier in the year, after long stretches without a working elevator in the 18-story structure.
But a few tenants remain with leases that expire this year. Among them is Community Health Care’s administrative offices. Its lease expires in April, but CEO David Flentge said Unico encouraged the health nonprofit to move out early to avoid the loud and disruptive construction process.
“They gave us a several month head start,” Flentge said. “We have been searching and are cautiously optimistic we will find another location.”
Community Health Care is deciding among three locations, all of which are in Tacoma, Flentge said.
The Washington Building opened in 1925 as the second-tallest in the Northwest. Today, it is the third-tallest in Tacoma, behind Wells Fargo Plaza and Hotel Murano, according to building data website Emporis. Unico also owns and manages Wells Fargo Plaza.
The renovation comes amid a historic boom in apartment construction in Tacoma and Pierce County. More than 3,500 new apartment units could open in the three-year period starting this year, according to Dupre + Scott Apartment Advisors.
Nationwide, multifamily apartments are being built at a rate not seen since the 1980s, according to Freddie Mac.