New effort underway to build ‘transit-oriented development’ in Tacoma’s Dome District

Link passengers disembark and head to the Tacoma Dome Station parking building on Wednesday. Pierce Transit is making another run at creating a “transit-oriented development” in the area.
Link passengers disembark and head to the Tacoma Dome Station parking building on Wednesday. Pierce Transit is making another run at creating a “transit-oriented development” in the area. lwong@thenewstribune.com

A two-year effort by Pierce Transit and the city of Tacoma to find someone to build a so-called “transit-oriented development” in the Dome District is back to square one.

The city last month issued a Request for Interest seeking a developer for a high-density housing and commercial project at 415 E. 25th St.

The property — where a maintenance shed now stands — is adjacent to the Tacoma Dome Station and across the street from Freighthouse Square.

It’s the third such attempt to find a developer for the project since 2014.

The first effort attracted only one applicant, who had “gaps in their financing plan,” said Rebecca Japhet, a spokeswoman for Pierce Transit.

The second foray attracted a reputable developer from the Portland area last year, but negotiations with Cody Development Corp. petered out.

“There was a gap in the project financing, and in the end it did not pencil out for both parties,” Japhet said.

Multiple attempts by The News Tribune to reach a representative of Cody Development were unsuccessful.

Pierce Transit and city officials hope the timing is right this time.

“The market in Tacoma has been heating up significantly, and the time is right to issue this new solicitation,” said Pat Beard of the city’s Community and Economic Development office. “The market is ripe for this site.”

The city is serving as the lead recruiter for developers.

The transit agency and city envision a minimum 100-unit apartment building with commercial uses on the ground floor. The housing could be market rate or “mixed-income not to exceed 20 percent affordable units,” according to the Request for Information.

“We would like to attract residents who will use transit to regional employment centers in downtown Tacoma, Seattle and other areas,” Beard said.

Japhet said Pierce Transit would entertain either a straight-up sale of the property or a lease arrangement of some kind.

The agency bought the parcel in 1999 to use as a staging area for construction of Phase 2 of the Tacoma Dome Station.

“It is underutilized and has great potential for transit-oriented development with a large amount and variety of transit options offered adjacent to the site,” Japhet said. “The site is already zoned for dense, mixed-use development.”

The 27,950-square-foot parcel is appraised at about $660,000, according to the latest Request for Interest.

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is trendy across the nation right now, as cities try to find ways to ease traffic congestion by building high-density housing units near transit hubs.

“Also known as TOD, it’s the creation of compact, walkable, mixed-use communities centered around high-quality train systems,” according to the Transit Oriented Development Institute. “This makes it possible to live a lower-stress life without complete dependence on a car for mobility and survival.”

The Tacoma Dome Station serves as a hub for Sound Transit express buses, Tacoma Link light rail, Sounder commuter trains and Amtrak.

“The public has embraced the concept across the nation as the most desirable places to live, work, and play,” the institute states on its website. “Real estate developers have quickly followed to meet the high demand for quality urban places served by rail systems.”

Cody Development proposed five floors with 100 apartments and two floors of parking and ground-floor retail at the site, a project similar to The Emery, a mixed-use development in Portland’s South Waterfront district.

Pierce Transit is committed to trying again, despite that deal falling through, Japhet said.

“Yes, this is Pierce Transit’s first foray into a transit-oriented development,” she said. “We have had other properties we’ve sold, but this is the first one seeking a transit-oriented development on site.

“We want to continue moving forward so we can see this property used as a catalyst for development in the Dome District.”

The current deadline for applications is April 15.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam