The University of Washington Tacoma is in the early stages of renovating its last big warehouse, which ultimately could result in the displacement of the downtown core’s oldest restaurant.
For the past year, school spokesman Mike Wark said this week, UWT real estate officials have been in talks with the Portland-based owner of The Old Spaghetti Factory, 1735 Jefferson Ave. “We are looking for a mutually beneficial solution,” Wark said.
Nothing will change for some time, Wark emphasized.
The director of real estate for OSF International, the restaurant’s Portland-based parent company, didn't return several messages for comment this week.
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UPDATE, 3:40 p.m. Friday: The director of real estate said in an email Friday that the company had no comment.
Since 1971, The Old Spaghetti Factory has been the ground-floor anchor tenant in the Tacoma Paper & Stationary building. Now, decades later, it’s in the heart of the UWT’s campus footprint and is a tenant of the school.
The university itself isn't sure what the building will be used for once renovations are complete, Wark said. The restaurant still could be a tenant when all is said and done. It also could find a new location if the school needs the whole building for educational purposes.
“The future of the building is uncertain at this point,” Wark said Thursday. “While we have plans, they could change. There is no line in the sand. There hasn't been a decision.”
The renovation is in the design phase. The school received $1.9 million in the state legislature’s last budget cycle for design work, Wark said, and no money for construction. The school will ask the legislature in its 2015-2017 budget to allocate $16.4 million for renovation. The soonest any work would begin would be at the end of 2015, he said.
The building dates to 1904. According to the Tacoma Public Library, it was built for the Tacoma Biscuit & Candy Co. In 1906, Union Pacific Railroad bought it. Later it was a spice factory, then used by the Tacoma Paper & Stationery Co. for many years, until finally it was taken over by Blake, Moffitt & Towne, Inc. in 1943. The firm was a wholesale distributor of printing paper, wrapping paper and stationery and remained at the Jefferson address until 1954 when it moved to the Tideflats. Since 1971, The Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant has been the primary occupant.
The Old Spaghetti Factory opened its first location in Portland in 1969, and many Tacomans believe the local location was the second one to open – and the one that made it into a chain. OSF, which is privately held, now has 40 restaurants in 15 states, according to Hoovers.