Gentrification in Tacoma has its own ZIP code, according to new survey

Tacoma, it’s time to rethink your blue-collar image.

Apartment search website RentCafe recently listed Tacoma as having one of the nation’s 20 most rapidly gentrifiying ZIP codes: 98402.

The 98402 ZIP code includes most of Tacoma’s downtown, a sliver of the eastern part of the Hilltop and the western portion of the Dome District. It also includes the western shore of the Thea Foss Waterway.

A sign seen outside The Esplanade in Tacoma, which is in the 98402 ZIP code. Apartment search site RentCafe says the neighborhoods in 98402 are in one of the most gentrified areas in the nation. Dale Phelps

RentCafe’s analysis, published Feb. 13, used information from the 2000 Census and the 2016 American Community Survey.

The survey, which analyzed more than 11,000 ZIP codes nationwide, defined gentrifying areas as those having experienced the highest growth in median home value, median household income and the share of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher since 2000.

“We ranked the ZIP codes on all three scales and created an average ranking to determine which areas experienced gentrification from 2000 to 2016,” according to the report.

The 98402 has changed dramatically since 2000: The Foss Waterway cleanup was completed, gleaming new buildings now line the waterway and a light-rail line was added through Tacoma’s downtown.

Major new construction in the area includes the Museum of Glass, the Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Greater Tacoma Convention Center and a number of large apartment and condominium projects.

Even more is planned for the 98402: a $60 million development in Tacoma’s brewery district that will include a 14-story high rise, an $85 million Marriott hotel next to the convention center, the approximately $125 million Tacoma Town Center project and a potential waterfront apartment and condominium project called the Village at Foss Harbor.

“Tacoma’s 98402 has seen a 103-percent increase in home value over the past decade and a half, while the median household income went up 83 percent,” RentCafe noted.

“Aside from Los Angeles, Tacoma is the only other city on the West Coast boasting one of the most gentrified ZIP codes in the country.”

How did Los Angeles rank? Its downtown 90014 ZIP code was at the top of the list.

Twelve of the top 20 were ZIP codes on the East Coast, including areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Tacoma also recently was ranked in another survey as a city with some of the largest rent increases nationwide in 2017.

“Some of the highest rents and prices in Pierce County accompany that gentrification, assuaged only by the fact that neighborhood walkability scores are through-the roof-positive, and that speaks to many new city dwellers’ hearts,” said Dick Beeson, Re/Max Professionals principal managing broker, in response to the report.

“The 98402 is neighbors with the Stadium District and the Theater District, which are sprinkled with grocery stores and specialty shops and eclectic restaurants dotting the landscape, making this a happening place. Soon, gentrification will be ubiquitous throughout downtown.”

Gentrification comes at a price.

Local real estate agent Marguerite Martin said there is not enough housing to accommodate the number of people moving to the region, which results in skyrocketing rent and housing prices.

In 2006, she rented an apartment downtown for $475 per month. The same apartment rents for $1,200 per month, she said.

“We have an affordability crisis, absolutely,” Martin said. “This isn’t a problem with a simple solution.”

In January, Northwest Multiple Listing Service showed one closed home sale for the ZIP code, at $440,000, and the median condo price for those sold (of which there were six) was $380,000.

Pierce County’s overall median sales price in January was $312,925 and median condo price was $227,500, according to NWMLS figures.

Gentrification is not limited to just 98402, Martin said.

But it’s not all BMWs and artisan craft beer in this part of the city.

About a third of the ZIP code’s residents live below the poverty line, more than double the statewide figure of 13 percent, according to the U.S. Census.

And 94 percent of the construction in that ZIP code is considered “multi-unit” construction, such as apartments, condos or duplexes.

Only 12 percent of people there own their living space, Census information showed, with nearly half of residents — 48 percent — having moved in the previous year, compared with the statewide figure of 17.5 percent. In a way this makes sense. University of Washington Tacoma is in this zone, where 5,185 students attend class.

The full report is at

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports