Neighbors air complaints over new Proctor apartment project

A 140-unit, six-story apartment and retail complex planned for North 27th and Proctor streets is simply too large for the residential and retail neighborhood in North Tacoma, area residents told a Tacoma hearing examiner Thursday.

The residents testified before hearing examiner Phyllis Macleod in opposition to the apartment developer’s request for the city to vacate air rights above an alley that bisects the building site. The developers would keep the alley open to vehicular traffic but build apartments above it.

Joan Halley, who lives near the proposed project, said she would welcome a more modest-sized residential development, but the project as planned is “a bit beyond what is appropriate.”

The district is busy with traffic from two nearby schools, the district’s Saturday Market and retail activity from the existing corps of merchants. Additional vehicular traffic could overwhelm the neighborhood, she said.

Randy Gould, an architect with BCRA, which designed the building, said a traffic study the developers commissioned showed the negative traffic effects would be negligible.

The building’s bulk means it would cast a large shadow on the surrounding area, said Halley.

The structure’s transient population would have less interest in keeping the area attractive, and its bulk would make the structure out-of-scale with the mostly one-and-two-story business buildings nearby, neighbors testified.

Gould countered that the building meets all city guidelines for multi-family structures in the city’s neighborhood business districts, which limit building height to 65 feet. The structure was designed with setbacks above the ground level to reduce its apparent size, and it will include internal parking for residents. The building will create 35 additional parking spots that will be available for local residents and shoppers in the neighborhood, he said.

Carrie Cupler, another nearby resident, said she didn’t see a public benefit to the city’s granting the air rights to the developers. The building, she maintained, would change the character of the neighborhood and introduce new density that could harm the neighborhood’s atmosphere.

The city said the granting of air rights would create new tax revenue by putting property on the tax rolls.

Under the conditions contemplated for the vacation, the alley and a nearby parking area would be paved and existing overhead utilities would be buried.

MacLeod told those gathered for Thursday’s hearing that she would keep the hearing record open for another week to solicit additional input from the Tacoma Fire Department about whether building an occupied area above the alley would cause public safety issues.

Architects said the passageway would be tall enough to allow passage of trash and firetrucks, and the area over the alley would be equipped with sprinklers.

The developers include Gig Harbor’s The Rush Cos. and Proctor-area businessmen Bill Evans and Erling Kuester.