New Tacoma Awards honor local people’s work downtown

The 11th New Tacoma Awards on Friday was a celebration of downtown’s progress, particularly in being welcome to children and families.

“It’s a great day for children in Tacoma!” said Tanya Andrews, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, as she accepted an award. She noted all the other award winners also are family friendly, from a waterway museum to a block party to Tinkertopia, a store designed for young imaginative minds.

“Pacific Avenue is Tacoma’s front porch,” she said. “Doesn’t it make sense that we have children on our front porch?”

The annual awards, put on by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, were announced during a luncheon at the Pacific Grill Events Center. Elly Walkowiak of the city’s economic development department also gave updates on more than a dozen projects downtown that will further contribute to its vibrancy.

“Even if you didn’t receive an award, you deserve one because you’re here and you care and you invest,” she told the room of business owners and downtown employees.

Walkowiak ticked off upcoming additions to downtown: A new YMCA, a major segment of the Prairie Line Trail, the new wing of the Tacoma Art Museum, dozens of new affordable housing units at Bay Terrace, and a handful of new retailers. She also said she is leading the negotiations for the proposed hotel/mixed-use project near the convention center.

Chinese-owned Yareton Investment and Management LLC wants to build a 300-room luxury hotel, 150 condominium units, a 400-car garage and a large retail space.

“A lot of hard work is ahead of us,” Walkowiak said. “We hope to take a contract to the (city) council this summer.”

In the order presented, the New Tacoma Award winners for 2014 are:

•  The Ghilarducci Award, recognizing successful new development, renovation or beautification: The Foss Waterway Seaport’s rehabilitation.

•  The Popham Award, recognizing the individual that has done the most to build community spirit: Justin Mayfield of the Downtown Block Party

•  The Public Places Award, recognizing the best activation of a public park, open space or area within the public right-of-way: Downtown On the Go’s Walk Tacoma program.

•  The Schoenfeld Award, recognizing exemplary performance and pizzazz as a retailer or restaurateur: Tinkertopia

•  The Union Station Award, recognizing leading organizations, companies or individuals that have built or sustained momentum for revitalization: the Children’s Museum of Tacoma.