Obnoxious yellow construction paper. Swarming construction vehicles and a bizarre metal pedestrian tunnel placed right on Proctor Street.
One can understand the angst, inconvenience and growing pains some are feeling as the new Proctor Station is being erected, especially with news that another development may be on its way.
Given the chaos that comes with construction, it may be a surprise to many that Proctor Station is likely the best-designed mixed-use building constructed in Tacoma in the last 60 years.
Since World War II, Tacoma has built little other than pedestrian-unfriendly, car-centric strip malls and low-density suburban apartment complexes with acres of parking lots.
Fortunately, Proctor Station utilizes some of the best urban design elements found in walkable, pedestrian-friendly business districts around the world, many dating back more than 500 years ago.
There are many benefits that Proctor Station will bring to the Proctor District.
• Proctor Station is wisely placed in one of Tacoma's designated 18 mixed-use centers, near dozens of retail and entertainment venues and on a major transit line.
• Like the other retail storefronts in the district, Proctor Station will be built right up to the sidewalk, creating a continuous retail frontage. Proctor Station replaces a surface-level parking lot and a small, car-centric strip mall.
• The parking garage entrance to Proctor Station will be at the back of the building so that pedestrians walking on Proctor will not have to dodge vehicles as they enter and exit the building. The strip mall and parking lot that were previously there routed vehicle traffic over the sidewalk on Proctor and North 28th Street, threatening the safety of pedestrians.
• Proctor Station will add seven new large-windowed retail spaces for small businesses, adding vibrancy to the area.
• Proctor Station will add much-needed housing density to Proctor and to Tacoma, a critical element needed for the success and vibrancy of the city.
Jane Jacobs emphasized how essential housing density is for the success of cities in her book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” She wrote: "There must be sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purposes they may be there . . ." Proctor businesses such as the Blue Mouse theater need as many patrons as the can get to stay open.
• Increased population density also furthers the goals of the Growth Management Act, reduces suburban sprawl, and saves endless acres of farmland and forest from development.
Some have raised concerns about a six-story building being constructed in Proctor. Fortunately, six-story buildings have been shown to integrate harmoniously with small business districts.
Tacoma's Stadium District has a dozen buildings of this height or higher, many of which are 80 years old and none of which have ever been known to cast harmful shadows or cause any other harmful effects.
Similarly sized buildings are also vital elements in walkable neighborhood business districts in Fremont, Ballard, Portland and around the world.
However, the architects of Proctor Station cannot take all of the credit for the design of the building. Many of the beneficial design elements are the result of the 18-month City of Tacoma Mixed Use Center modification process that involved hundreds of contributors, including design professionals, Tacoma citizens, architects, the American Institute of Architects, Tacoma's neighborhood councils and countless of other entities.
While I was on the North End Neighborhood Council during this period, City of Tacoma planners gave many presentations during our monthly meetings as the mixed-use center regulations evolved.
Once Proctor Station is completed, the yellow construction material is covered over by brick, the pedestrian tunnel and construction equipment removed, Proctor will be more vibrant, walkable and safer than ever.
Erik Bjornson is an attorney who lives in North Tacoma and is an attorney in downtown Tacoma. He is a past chairman of the North End Neighborhood Council