New plans for downtown Puyallup prioritize apartments and condominiums near the Sounder Station for a 45-minute commute into Seattle.
The city hopes by focusing on multi-family affordable housing that more retail, coffee shops and businesses will follow. The bulk of planned development is less than a 10-minute walk to the train station.
“Becoming a bedroom community is not something we are shying away from,” acting city manager Steve Kirklie said recently.
A 500-stall parking garage for Sounder commuters is expected to draw more residents, and Puyallup needs housing to support the growth, Kirklie said. Downtown Puyallup’s population is expected to increase by 9,000 in 10 years.
For the past five years, downtown’s annual growth has been slower than the rest of Puyallup.
The Downtown Economic Development Plan targets residences as key to jump start investment. More apartments with shops and restaurants on the first floor would be ideal, said consultant Radhiya Nair.
Retail in South Hill is thriving, and plans call for a trolley to connect South Hill Mall to downtown. Plans also include restoring older buildings as apartments to keep rent prices down.
In the end, all the city can do is attract development and investment to the area, said Tom Utterback, director of development services.
To entice developers, the city is looking to lower permit costs, streamline the permitting process and offer tax exemptions for multi-family housing to spur apartment construction.
Many Pierce County cities are trying to avoid becoming simply a suburb of Seattle, including Tacoma. Ali Modarres, the director of University of Washington Tacoma’s Urban Studies, warned of the dangers of becoming a bedroom community.
“We need something that produces goods or products, generating an economy beyond services,” Modarres told The News Tribune earlier this month. “Real-estate taxes are not enough to keep up with the infrastructure costs over time.”
Asked about the possibility of Puyallup losing its small-town charm in the process of becoming a commuter town for Seattle, Councilwoman Robin Farris said the city’s been growing consistently for 10 years and a vibrant downtown ensures charm.
Councilman Jim Kastama is impressed with the downtown plans but worries there won’t be follow through.
“We’ve had not significant development for 10 years that we need,” he said.
Business owners like John Hopkins are worried the city can’t juggle development and parking.
“If we are not careful, we will ‘Proctorize’ Puyallup,” Hopkins said of the parking.
“I love Proctor, I think it’s a great, but I don’t go there because I can’t park anywhere,” said Hopkins, a former Puyallup mayor.
Keeping the sidewalks clean and graffiti-free were priorities for those visiting a July 8 community forum on downtown plans.
The proposal is expected to be voted on before the end of summer.