The Old Spaghetti Factory, a Tacoma institution for 44 years, soon could have a new home on downtown Tacoma’s main street.
The owner of the restaurant confirmed Thursday that it had reached an agreement to move The Old Spaghetti Factory to 1250 Pacific Ave., into the location of the former Tacoma City Grocer, which closed last year.
“We are excited about it — excited about continuing our generational relationship with Tacoma,” said Ryan Durrett, the director of marketing for the restaurant’s parent company, Portland-based OSF International.
Durrett said he could not say when OSF will close the location at 1735 Jefferson Ave. or open the new one, though the restaurant’s potential new landlord is working toward having the new restaurant space ready by the end of the year.
Durrett also couldn’t say whether the restaurant’s trolley car would make the journey down the hill and find a spot in the new space.
“We are in the early planning of the design and decor of the new interior,” Durrett said. “But it will definitely feel like an Old Spaghetti Factory, that’s for sure.”
The move is prompted by the growth of the University of Washington Tacoma. The school owns the Tacoma Paper & Stationery building, where the restaurant has been since 1971. It was among the first locations opened after the original Portland-based restaurant decided to become a chain.
The Tacoma Paper & Stationary Building is one of the last historic buildings to be renovated for the urban campus. The Legislature recently designated $18 million for the work, school spokesman Mike Wark said.
When the renovation is complete, the building will have classrooms and labs that will support programs in environmental science, urban design and computer science, Wark said. The building also will support new degree programs in engineering and biomedical science. It can hold 1,000 students, Wark said, and is an important part of the school’s plan to reach an enrollment of 7,000 students in the next five to seven years.
OSF and the UWT are putting the finishing touches on a deal that breaks that lease, both parties said Thursday. Meanwhile, no leases have been signed for the new location, though both OSF and the owners of Pacific Plaza said there is agreement.
The Old Spaghetti Factory’s potential new location will fill a high-profile hole in downtown’s landscape. The Tacoma City Grocer opened in 2011 at Pacific Plaza with great fanfare as the first full-service grocer in the downtown core in generations. In 2014, the grocer closed after being unable to draw enough customers to turn a profit.
Now the space will be filled with the kind of business other downtown retailers crave.
“It’s not just a wonderful public attraction, but it will bring feet on the street,” said Steph Farber, co-owner of LeRoy Jewelers and a longtime downtown advocate. “This is exactly what that building was originally designed to do.”
Pacific Plaza is a former city-owned parking garage renovated through a public-private partnership into a best-in-class office building with parking and ground-floor retail. The retail spaces emerged as the economy took a nose-dive, and the owners had to get city permission to deviate from the retail requirement just to fill some of the spaces and generate income. Several downtown business interests protested, including Farber, but ultimately the council approved the state Attorney General’s office and a medical clinic.
Since the grocery store didn’t make it, a longtime restauranteur was “perfect,” said Dan Putnam, one of the owners and developers of Pacific Plaza.
“Creating vibrancy downtown was always a goal of Pacific Plaza, and we know The Old Spaghetti Factory has a very loyal clientele,” Putnam said.
The restaurant will occupy most of the space of the grocery store, except for 4,000 square feet on the southern end. That will be carved off as the first South Sound location for California’s Bank of the West, Putnam said.
When the restaurant opens in Pacific Plaza, customers will have the option of parking in the city-owned garage above it. Under a license agreement worked out by the landlord and the city, the restaurant will provide validations that customers can use to pay for the parking. The city then will send a bill based on the time-stamp of the validation. The rate during the day will be higher than at night, city parking manager Eric Huseby said, when demand for spaces is lower.
Putnam said Pacific Plaza and the restaurant will share the cost of the parking. “We’re in this together,” he said.