Proposed sale of 2 lots to hotel a victory, official says

Tacoma’s economic development director said Saturday the proposed sale of two city-owned parking lots to the Murano Hotel’s owners is “a huge victory for the city of Tacoma” — not the giveaway it first appeared to be.

Ricardo Noguera said a recent city-funded appraisal of the two lots south of the downtown high-rise hotel puts their value at $1.34 million, not the $3 million or so that the two lots are valued at on Pierce County’s tax rolls. A story in Saturday’s News Tribune used the county figures after the city didn’t respond to a request for more information on the proposed sale.

The Murano’s owner, KS Tacoma LLC, has proposed paying $1.25 million for the two lots and will agree to drop a pending lawsuit that is blocking construction of a Marriott Residence Inn on the nearby Thea Foss Waterway. The hotel owners, under a settlement that goes before the City Council this week, would also agree not to institute new lawsuits against the city or developers that may build another hotel south of the Tacoma Convention & Trade Center.

The Murano’s owners have blocked construction of the 104-room Foss Waterway hotel for some four years by mounting a political and legal attack on the hotel and the Foss Waterway Development Authority that originally owned the waterfront hotel site. KS Tacoma lost its last legal battle in Pierce County Superior Court last fall, but had appealed that decision to a higher court.

Noguera said the settlement would be a great benefit to the city not only because it could finally open the door to building the Foss hotel, but because it could put the parking lot land back on the tax rolls. The sale would enrich the city’s coffers by $1.25 million for two lots that the hotel now leases for what the economic development director said is $1 a year each.

That low-cost lease still has about 30 years until its expiration, he said. The city granted the hotel that bargain lease to ensure the hotel would remain financially viable.

The economic development director said he doesn’t know what the Murano plans to do with the two lots, but he intends to work with the owners to see those center-city lots are developed with buildings that will benefit the city and its businesses.

“I call this a huge victory for the city of Tacoma,” he said. “It further demonstrates that we are open for business, and downtown Tacoma is on the move with respect to furthering a vibrant community drawing significant investment interest.”