Broken elevator force some Winthrop Hotel residents to move

Wheelchair-bound residents of Tacoma’s 12-story Winthrop Hotel building are being moved from their apartments because of broken elevators.

The last working passenger elevator in the subsidized housing building at 776 Commerce St. broke down Wednesday, stranding some residents and inconveniencing nearly all in the 194-unit building.

As of Friday, eight residents had been relocated and another 22 with “mobility or disability issues” might be moved later, said Colleen Carr, a spokeswoman for the building’s management company, Allied Residential.

“It depends on how long the elevator takes to repair,” she said. “We haven’t gotten a firm estimate on that yet.”

The repairs could take as long as 30 days, Carr said.

The building’s freight elevator is still working, Carr said, but is not certified to carry passengers. The Winthrop’s other passenger elevator broke down in November.

One long-time Winthrop resident, Jamie Davis, said many residents of the building suffer from disabilities and were struggling to make their way up and down the stairs.

“There are a lot of people in the building that are panicking over this,” Davis said. “Without an elevator, that just stops everybody.”

Farah Skager, 42, who lives with Davis on the building’s fourth floor, said she’s able to make it down the stairs but because of her osteoarthritis unable to make it back up without help.

“I haven’t left the building in four days,” Skager said Friday.

The broken elevators are the latest in a long string of problems at the Winthrop, Tacoma’s classiest hotel when it was built in 1925.

The building was converted into affordable housing apartments in 1973 and has been owned since 2006 by a subsidiary of Prium Companies, which planned to move residents and turn the building back into a hotel.

Prium and its owners are in bankruptcy, which forced the building’s sale.

A sale is pending to a California-based investment company, Redwood Housing Partners LLC, which reportedly plans to renovate apartments and keep it as federal Housing and Urban Development subsidized housing.

Those familiar with the deal said the sale could close as early as next week.

The cost of relocating tenants is the responsibility of the owner of the building, but HUD is working to make sure the moves are handled as humanely as possible, HUD spokesman Leland Jones said.

“We need to make sure we do everything we can to make sure these people see this as an inconvenience in their lives and not a disaster,” he said.