From bling to bland: ‘Flashy’ glass wiped off historic district hotel plan

A view from Commerce Street looking south from the Greater Tacoma Convention Center and a rendering of the adjacent hotel.
A view from Commerce Street looking south from the Greater Tacoma Convention Center and a rendering of the adjacent hotel. Ankrom Moisan Architects

Turns out the dichroic glass design for the proposed Tacoma Convention Center Hotel was too polarizing.

The city’s Landmarks and Preservation Commission approved a new design for the skyscraper last month, sans the decorative glass, which displays different colors depending on the lighting and the viewing angle.

“There was a lingering concern” from the commission that the glass was too much of an unknown, said project manager Jason Lamb with Ankrom Moisan Architects. “It may turn out great, or there’s a slight risk that it might be too flashy in this historic district.”

Three years ago, Yareton Investment and Management LLC won the city’s bid to build a hotel with at least 300 rooms next to the city-owned Greater Tacoma Convention Center at 1500 Commerce St.

The Marriott-branded hotel will include a parking garage, grand ballroom and other public spaces to complement the convention center.

Located north of the University of Washington Tacoma, the hotel will be in the city’s Union Station Conservation District.

Had the glass been approved, the hotel would’ve been the first city building with the feature. Architects in September said the glass element was a nod to the Museum of Glass and native son Dale Chihuly.

“The direction we got from the landmarks board was to try to simplify the building and not have the characteristics of the building overwhelm the other structures,” Lamb said. “That’s the direction we took.”

Still, the building will rise an average of 264 feet , making it the second-tallest building in the city behind the 338-foot-tall 1201 Pacific building, formerly known as Wells Fargo Plaza, at South 12th Street and Pacific Avenue.

The base will blend with the stonework and masonry of the adjacent Carlton Building on Broadway, Lamb said.

The city is negotiating an amendment to the agreement that will allow for a later construction start date, said Elly Walkowiak, business development manager with the city.

Vertical construction on the hotel was supposed to start by June 15, but the developer can’t start building until it owns the land. It cannot buy the land from the city until a number of conditions are met, including proving to the city it has all of the financing available to build the hotel.

Yareton plans to use money from overseas investors to pay for at least 40 percent of the project’s $85 million cost.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regulates the investor program, called EB-5. It allows foreign citizens who invest in qualified projects that create at least 10 full-time jobs to obtain a U.S. visa for residency for themselves and family members.

Many such projects don’t attract foreign investment until they are under construction, Walkowiak said via email. In the interim, she said, the developer will provide proof of equity and a bridge loan.

The hotel was projected to open by the end of summer 2019. An updated estimate on vertical construction or opening date was not available.

In the past, language and cultural differences stalled negotiations for the hotel. Yareton’s parent company, Shanghai Mintong Real Estate Co. Ltd., is based in China.

Walkowiak said the city expects to sell the property to the developer in July or August.

The developer’s representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports