Detour alert: Renovations for UWT building to close section of Jefferson Avenue

A historic warehouse on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Tacoma has been many things through the decades — a candy and biscuit company and Tacoma Paper & Stationary among them.

Most recently, the building at 1735 Jefferson Ave. was home of a beloved casual dining spot, the Old Spaghetti Factory.

For the next six weeks, some of Jefferson Avenue will be blocked off for work on the building’s latest incarnation — becoming academic space for the University of Washington Tacoma.

Less than a block of the street will be closed to vehicle and foot traffic starting Monday (Aug. 15) through Sept. 20 while the city of Tacoma installs a 60-inch storm water drainage pipe under the street.

Additional utility work will take place during that time as part of the construction.

Traffic on surrounding streets will not be affected, said Elizabeth Hyun, the construction development manager at UWT who is overseeing the building renovation.

The sidewalk in front of the building will be closed, but pedestrians will be able to walk around the building, she said.

The city and the university decided early in the planning of the renovation to collaborate on utility work so the street would have to be closed only once, Hyun said.

The century-old warehouse is known as the Paper & Stationary Building after its longest tenant, which sold office supplies from 1910 to 1953.

It will find new life when UWT converts it into 40,000 square feet of classrooms and other education spaces.

“It’s the last historic warehouse left that we’re refurbishing, so we’re excited,” UWT spokesman Mike Wark said. “It’s all coming together.”

When the renovation is completed, the building will feature an open, multiuse student space, studio classrooms, and seminar spaces and labs for biomedical research, urban design and 3-D visual projects.

Wark said the part of the project he’s most excited about will be the opening of the building’s five floor-to-ceiling front windows, which have been boarded up at least since he arrived at the university in 1998.

“Previously, they were worried people wanted to throw things at them and break them,” Wark said. “Those will all open up to let natural light into the building.”

Foundation and structural reinforcement work will wrap up this week with the pouring of the last weight-bearing wall, and steel bracing will be installed through the end of the week.

Exterior renovation will begin in a few weeks.

Wark said that up to this point, renovations have focused on making sure the building is up to city earthquake code.

The building is slated to be open in time for UWT’s fall 2017 semester, Hyun said.

“Basically, we’re about 40 percent through construction,” she said. “We’re on schedule and on budget and keeping our fingers crossed.”