Here we go again?
As Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood prepares for its second six-story, mixed-use development, anyone with scars from the battle over the first has to be asking the question.
And perhaps ducking for cover.
Last week, as The News Tribune’s Candice Ruud reported, dozens of residents turned out at Mason Middle School for a meeting of the North End Neighborhood Council. With city staff members and developers on hand, the purpose was largely informational: an update by Gig Harbor-based Rush Development on the progress of a project that’s preliminarily called “Proctor South.”
The 141-unit apartment development, complete with a two-story parking garage — which is in the permitting process — is planned for North 25th and North Proctor streets. It’s been in the works for some time, with angst and anger still lingering over how the Proctor Station development came to dominate Proctor’s skyline.
Still, there’s an air of civility to the discourse thus far. Or perhaps it’s mild resignation. It’s tough to tell.
At the meeting (last Monday) I personally was very impressed with the lack of emotionalism in folks, and the questions they were asking. Kelly Hale, store manager at the Proctor Umpqua Bank and president of the Proctor District Association.
Either way, the result at last week’s meeting, at least according to those who attended, was a proceeding that lacked fireworks and instead focused on developers and city staff members answering some worthy, albeit predictable, questions from residents with understandable concerns.
Yes, it’s fair to wonder how Proctor’s future will be affected by the neighborhood’s next tall building.
Though plenty of people will beg to differ, the often-cited parking fears, as a recent study seems to confirm, might be overblown.
As Jennifer Kammerzell with Tacoma’s Public Works Department described, the study “indicated that except for two blocks … parking is pretty available, and it’s not at its capacity for use, so there really isn’t an on-street parking problem here.”
But the developers are being required to mitigate traffic concerns, as well as issues of possible soil contamination. And while it’s difficult to cast Proctor as hardscrabble, it’s legitimate to wonder how another apartment building with rents the likes of Proctor Station will affect the cost of living in the neighborhood.
To put it another way, it sure would be nice if the project was more affordable to those with modest incomes.
“At the meeting (last Monday), I personally was very impressed with the lack of emotionalism in folks and the questions they were asking,” said Kelly Hale, store manager at the Proctor Umpqua Bank and president of the Proctor District Association. She was careful to describe her opinions as personal, saying it would be “a little premature to speak on behalf of the business association.”
“I thought it went really well,” Hale said. “And I think the city is doing its due diligence.”
Hale also told me it’s too early to judge the true impact of how Proctor Station has changed the neighborhood.
As for the new building …
“I think it’s inevitable,” Hale said. “I don’t want to say it’s a done deal, but we’re on the cusp of it being set in concrete.”
She’s right on both accounts. The benefits of Proctor Station are still being realized (c’mon, Top Pot doughnuts!), and this building will almost certainly be built (although, hopefully with a better name than Proctor South).
So where do those who fought the good fight against Proctor Station turn in times such as these, when the city’s code and political will seem set on adding the D word — density — to its mixed-use centers, and Proctor is a natural destination?
Early indications are, toward fairly reasonable aspirations.
When it comes to the various neighborhood groups that have played a role in pushing back against six-story developments in the neighborhood, at least some seem to be turning their attention to influencing more realistic goals.
John De Loma is a designer and 16-year Proctor resident who spoke to me late last week. Though he acknowledges harboring lingering concerns over contentious items such as traffic and adding density at the level Proctor South would, he’s hoping to push the city and developers in directions that seem feasible — such as doing more to manage traffic congestion, ensuring pedestrian safety, striving for affordability and demanding the sort of transit system that supports a development like Proctor South.
Of achieving these goals, De Loma says, “I’m confident.”
Sounds strangely reasonable to me.