Matt Driscoll

Matt Driscoll: No ‘clear consensus’ on new name for Tacoma Mall neighborhood

Some of the newest housing, The Pacifica and Pine Crest Town Homes near the Tacoma Mall, are visible over Ronald McDonald on the commercial strip along South 38th Street.
Some of the newest housing, The Pacifica and Pine Crest Town Homes near the Tacoma Mall, are visible over Ronald McDonald on the commercial strip along South 38th Street. Staff file, 2015

The people of Tacoma have spoken.

At least in part.

Associate planner Elliott Barnett says roughly three-quarters of respondents to a city sanctioned online survey voted in favor of renaming the Tacoma Mall Neighborhood.

The survey closed July 20. I wrote about the effort and the reasoning behind it last month.

In the time the survey was open to the public, Barnett said more than 150 people let their voice on the matter be heard.

Admittedly, 150 people is a small sample size. Having championed the opportunity to rebrand, I won’t take the low turnout personally.

But the results, at least to the overarching question, are clear.

“The majority of people who responded would like to change the name,” Barnett told me last week.

The majority of people who responded would like to change the name.

Tacoma associate planner Elliott Barnett

There’s just one catch: “There was really no clear consensus,” on what the neighborhood’s new name should be, Barnett acknowledged.

It’s a predictable outcome, really. Getting people to agree that a change is needed is easy; getting people to agree on a path forward is a far more difficult proposition.

Just look at any political election, ever.

Of course, the lack of consensus when it comes to rallying around a new name could also have something to do with the, shall we say, less than inspiring nature of some of the options the survey provided.

Of the options — which, again, were Cascade Park, Cascade Plaza, Midtown, Oakes District, SoTac, Tacoma South and Travers Green — Barnett told me Midtown received the most votes. He also said “Oakes District” earned a “significant number” of votes.

Interestingly, Barnett said two new name suggestions also emerged: Nalley Heights and Oakes Hill.

Just about any of the potential replacements would represent a significant upgrade from the current one. Barnett said the results of the survey will be forwarded to the City Council, along with the rest of the far more important subarea plan that’s in the works, for possible action in the first quarter of 2017.

The reason any of this matters goes straight to the root of that larger subarea plan work in progress.

The goal of this effort, which has been ongoing for the better part of a year, is to re-imagine everything the Tacoma Mall neighborhood can be for its residents, current and future. In city speak, this means promoting sustainable growth, increasing transportation options, promoting smart development, and creating “a unique, attractive and livable neighborhood.”

In layman’s terms, it means working to erase decades of development missteps and charting a future that involves more than parking lots and lost potential.

I’ve described the Tacoma Mall Neighborhood as a “sprawling, auto-centric blob.” When questioned about this choice of words, I point out that this is a family paper. I could be a lot harsher.

And, in fact, when I posed the question online, some of the responses I got were harsher. Carsville, Consumption-Land, Descent Into Hell, Chick-fil-ania and the Parking Lot District were just a handful of the suggestions I received.

I like a simple joke just as much as the next overworked columnist, but the way many Tacomans view the Tacoma Mall Neighborhood speaks to the work that needs to be done here. The place is a punchline.

Residents of the Tacoma Mall neighborhood deserve more. And a new name could be part of the answer.

From the very first time this was presented … I kept saying that the neighborhood needed a better name.

Former City Councilman David Boe

So, Tacoma, we’ve got our directive. It’s up to us to find a name befitting of this neighborhood’s future, not its past.

And I’m taking suggestions.

“From the very first time this was presented … I kept saying that the neighborhood needed a better name,” former City Councilman David Boe told me. “The area just to the west of the (Tacoma) Mall was/is called Madison. The area to the north, where Costco is, was/is Lincoln Heights.

“With the Lincoln District, Lincoln Heights is a bit confusing,” Boe continued. “Heights relate to the fact that there are some of the best views — so maybe Madison Heights? The Tacoma Mall is thus in East Madison Heights?”

Put it on the list, along with Midtown, Oakes District, Nalley Heights and Oakes Hill.

Finding a new name for what’s currently the Tacoma Mall Neighborhood might not be easy.

The good news?

We can’t do any worse.

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