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Grocer or cinema could be part of large downtown Tacoma development

The Tacoma Town Center development includes a pedestrian plaza along Fawcett Avenue, flanked by residential and retail buildings. In plans submitted to the city of Tacoma, the two buildings in the back would be constructed first.
The Tacoma Town Center development includes a pedestrian plaza along Fawcett Avenue, flanked by residential and retail buildings. In plans submitted to the city of Tacoma, the two buildings in the back would be constructed first. Courtesy

It is one of the largest undeveloped pieces of land in Tacoma’s downtown. When complete, the vacant 6.4-acre parcel could contain hundreds of apartment units, thousands of square feet of retail space and a wine tasting room.

A grocer or a minicinema also is planned in this project, but you might have to wait a bit.

The Tacoma Town Center development will be built in phases: The first one is slated to break ground by this fall and open in early 2019.

The hilly property, between South 21st and South 23rd streets and Jefferson Avenue and Tacoma Avenue South, was once slated for a police department headquarters. Instead, the parcel sat vacant for years.

Phase 1A of the development will include 224 apartments, ranging from 500 to 700 square feet, with some storefront retail shops, said project director Albert Sze in an email to The News Tribune. Those first two buildings will be on the South 23rd Street side of the project.

Sze said a wine tasting shop facing Jefferson Avenue is planned in the first phase.

Phase 1B, slated to start construction sometime in 2018 and be complete by the end of 2019, will include 200,000 square feet of retail space, and 130 more units of market-rate apartments. Both phases together will include at least 450 parking spots.

Phase 2, facing Tacoma Avenue South, will include at least 180 apartments, 50,000 square feet of commercial or office space and at least 185 parking stalls, according to an agreement between the company and the city. Construction on Phase 2 is slated to start six months after 1B receives a certificate of occupancy.

The anchor tenant? A small grocery or cinema, he wrote.

“It is our concept to have retail shops along the grand plaza area, and a large number of restaurants and bars,” Sze wrote.

MORE BUILDING

Tacoma Town Center is one of dozens of apartment projects in the county. Thousands of apartment units are coming online through 2019.

Even federal mortgage lender Freddie Mac says Tacoma is a good bet for apartment investors. It listed the City of Destiny as a Top-10 market in the nation for those looking to make money on the apartment boom.

Apartment rents here also are seeing a meteoric rise. Apartmentlist.com said rents in Tacoma were the second fastest growing in the country, with a 10.2 percent rise in April compared with April of last year.

Rents rise as more people move here. Last year, four central Puget Sound counties, including Pierce County, saw 86,000 new residents, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council.

500-700 SQUARE FEET

When complete, Tacoma Town Center will have at least 535 apartments, which should appeal to the young working class, college students and faculty members, Sze said. The development will be a short walk away from University of Washington Tacoma.

Sze also is managing the Tacoma Convention Center hotel project. Work on a ramp from Commerce Street into the convention center garage has begun.

Apartments in the Tacoma Town Center development will range from 500 square feet to 700 square feet, and will include one- and two-bedroom floor plans. Sze said apartments will go for “market rate,” but did not disclose a price.

Last fall, the Tacoma City Council agreed to sell the property to North American Asset Management, a Bellevue-based firm led by Luo Xun Kun, a real estate developer from Wuhan, China. The city has not yet transferred the property to North American Asset Management, however.

Fawcett Avenue through the development will be closed to vehicle traffic, creating a pedestrian plaza.

When complete the development is expected to cost $125 million. Sze said he expects as much as 35 percent of the development’s financing to come from the federal government’s Immigrant Investor Program, also known as EB-5. Investors who pledge at least $500,000 each toward projects that create jobs can receive a permanent U.S. visa.

Downtown Tacoma hasn’t had a grocery store since Tacoma City Grocer closed in early 2014. The space later became home to The Old Spaghetti Factory.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports

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