Since 2010, Pierce County’s old mental-health hospital has sat shuttered on Pacific Avenue.
Shuttered but not undisturbed.
Vandals have tagged the Puget Sound Hospital building with graffiti. Scavengers have cut fencing and broken windows to get in to steal wiring, metal and fixtures. The most recent calls to Tacoma police involve kids getting on the roof to smoke dope, according to TPD spokeswoman Loretta Cool.
So not only is the abandoned building an eyesore and source of many calls for police service, it’s also a potential liability. If any of those kids are injured, guess who their parents will sue?
Pierce County wants to tear the old hospital down, and it would be gone by now had voters not rejected the proposal to build a county administration building on the site. But that’s water under the bridge.
Now a new plan to demolish the building is in the works, and it promises to solve a few other problems at the same time. But some dominoes need to fall in place for that to happen.
First, South Sound 911 – an interlocal public safety and emergency communications agency – would need to agree to build its planned dispatch center and administrative office building on the Pacific Avenue site where the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Community Connections social services buildings stand now.
The project, expected to cost about $62 million, would be paid through a 0.1 percent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2011 specifically to create and fund South Sound 911. It means the agency will be able to consolidate six police and fire dispatch centers under one roof.
Money from that deal would pay for demolishing Puget Sound Hospital as well as the existing health department and Community Connections buildings, which are considered too expensive to renovate. The health department and Community Connections would move into a vacant building across Pacific Avenue, but that move hinges on the county successfully negotiating the building’s purchase.
South Sound 911 is now doing its due diligence on the health department site, said Executive Director Andrew Neiditz. The agency has a backup candidate in University Place, but he says the Tacoma site is the preferred one.
The plan may be convoluted, but Pierce County Council Chairman Doug Richardson said he thinks it’s a good one.
Demolishing Puget Sound Hospital is a “big priority. We’ve wanted to get it down for the neighborhood for a long time.” And he said it’s also time to find a better home for the health department and Community Connections. He said the county will be doing “aggressive citizen outreach” on the plan at several meetings. The plan needs County Council approval, but Richardson said it “enjoys support” there.
What does the future hold for the Puget Sound Hospital site once the building’s razed? Sell it? Try again to build a county services building?
Either alternative could be a good way to end up. But the first priority is to tear down the building.