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Browns Point Town Center could become senior living community

A rendering of a proposed senior community at the property of Browns Point Town Center in Northeast Tacoma. This is the view from the southeast.
A rendering of a proposed senior community at the property of Browns Point Town Center in Northeast Tacoma. This is the view from the southeast. Courtesy

A Northeast Tacoma-area strip mall could be demolished to make way for a small retirement community.

Preliminary plans call for replacing Browns Point Town Center with parking, retail and up to five floors of senior housing.

The idea is in the very early stages, said David Haack, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of LivingCare Lifestyles. The company currently is exploring what it is allowed to do on site at 1000 Town Center NE, and whether it is a good fit for the company and community.

The proposal includes a two-level parking garage with a third level of outdoor parking, and senior care units that could range from the lowest-level independent living to memory care units for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Plans filed with Pierce County show the senior care portion of the building would have up to 120,000 square feet, but don't list the number of units. About 120 to 130 residents could live there, with some doubling up in the same unit, Haack said.

Up to 30,000 square feet of commercial office and retail space would round out the development, the plans show.

If the project pencils out, Navigator would own the senior care portion of the community while a Seattle-based investor group would own the rest, Haack said.

That investor group, led by Matt Herron, bought Browns Point Town Center last year for $3.8 million. The sale price was a significant discount from when the property sold last, in 2007 for $5.1 million, property records show.

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It will be at least 12 to 18 months before construction could start, said Mike Derr, Navigator's executive vice president for development at a Browns Point community meeting last month.

A strip mall by itself isn't sustainable in that location because much of the surrounding area is water, Derr said. This means large national companies are unlikely to locate there.

"The types of tenants you do want to have can't rent the spaces we have available," Derr said at the meeting. However, building five levels of senior housing above the retail would give tenants there an automatic customer base.

Current retail tenants of the center include the Brown's Point Diner, North 47 Brewery, Lighthouse Market and Lumpia World, located inside of the market. It's one of the only retail centers in the Browns Point area, where homes in March had a median sale price of nearly $460,000, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

"We want the tenants that want to be a part of the project to come back," said Matt Herron, owner of the property development group, at the meeting. "We are giving preference to the existing tenants to come back to the project."

North 47 Brewing Co. doesn't plan to move into the new building, co-owner Carl Leach said in a Wednesday phone interview.

"It's too much uncertainty for us," he said. "We don't know what the new rent is going to be. Our lease ends in a year anyway."

The audience sentiment at the March community meeting seemed mixed, based on a review of a video of the meeting. One woman said part of being a good neighbor is ensuring people’s views are not obstructed, which will help preserve their property values.

“It seems so big, like, too big for the community,” she said of the proposed development while others grumbled.

“There is nothing in here that exceeds what existing zoning allows,” Derr said.

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Navigator owns and manages more than a dozen senior communities in the Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Texas under its Living Care Lifestyles brand. The company is looking for ways for residents of the new center to involved in the community.

"To have a healthy and vibrant senior living community, you have to have residents engaged," Haack said. The company will reach out to community members next month to hear their thoughts on the proposal.

"We want to be really thoughtful about what is needed in an area," he said.

A decade ago the community agreed on development standards, including building height limits, for the parcel, which is in what's called the Browns Point-Dash Point neighborhood center plan, said Sean Gaffney, planning manager for Pierce County Planning and Land Services.

The town center property borders state Route 509. From there the land slopes down. Neighborhood design restrictions would limit the height of the building on the property's lowest elevation to 60 feet.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports