Tacoma Urbanist

Nov. 19, 2007 at 12:29am

Is Downtown Tacoma Ready for an Expanded Mall?

As we have all observed, the Tacoma Mall is being renovated and expanding:

Will downtown Tacoma be ready this time around?

Last time there was a grand opening of the Tacoma Mall:

Downtown Tacoma did not fare very well.

Let's hope downtown adopts better this time around. There is still a year or so to prepare.  Here's Tacoma's Go Local Campaign.

comments [16]  |  posted under mall, tacoma, washington


by Brotha E. on 11/19/2007 @ 6:28am
I don't think downtown will ever be able to handle the Tacoma Mall. It's simply to close in proximity. Now that we've screwed up again and let the mall expand downtown needs a vision that is not centerd around shopping. I have said this before, maybe our niche is museums and office with some residential. It surely has no retail aspect to it. We all want to see the same thing downtown, people.There is simply no reason to go downtown and hang around unless it's business related. It's just so sad. I have been waiting for a downtown T-town for 20yrs and looks like it will be another 20.

by Erik on 11/19/2007 @ 9:59am
I don't think Tacomans could have kept the mall from expanding. I suppose they can work to not have suburban sprawl and the accompanying strip malls and big box stores subsidized, however.

We will see.

by andrew.austin on 11/19/2007 @ 2:08pm
A think an anchor commecial tenant downtown might provide that weekend spark that we so desperately need.

by andrew.austin on 11/19/2007 @ 2:08pm
I hate malls!

by KevinFreitas on 11/19/2007 @ 5:05pm
I'm with Andrew. Perhaps once more residents are downtown a retailer will see the potential and move in. Question is, who could that be?

by Brotha E. on 11/19/2007 @ 9:01pm
Could've been Nordstroms but seems like Tacoma sold the farm again. It's to bad we didn't even try to stop the mall from expanding. Instead those that talk the loudest wasted their energy picking on some teenage kids who need a place to socialize.

by Gallery Madera on 11/25/2007 @ 12:11am
Excuse me??? Um, the last time I was downtown - which was today - I saw a TON of retail - EVERYWHERE. You want Nordstroms? Go to the mall. You want truly unique options bravely offered by folks that live in your community, aka your friends and neighbors, then stay away from the mall. We're down here because we believe in offering what the malls don't - COMMUNITY. Perhaps you may find a bit of passion, TOO. If you are looking for anchors, here...www.anchorblue.com/ ...they are at the mall.

by Erik on 11/25/2007 @ 1:12am
I have been waiting for a downtown T-town for 20yrs and looks like it will be another 20.

Perhaps that is the time to make it fully functional again. However, there is a surpising amout of stuff downtown. I picked up a hip urban jacket at Urban Xchange last week.

by Nick on 4/4/2008 @ 1:58pm
I don't know, Tacoma Mall has never been an attractive option for me. I've only ever gone when all alternatives have been exhausted. I think downtown offers a much more desirable environment for retail than the mall, it's just a matter of growing the population to a level that can support it.

If you look at retail trends across the country, everyone is trying to emulate a downtown feel with that new "lifestyle center" concept (Emryville or Walnut Creek, CA, both next to my home town offer excellent examples). This makes downtown areas that don't already have major retail a very attractive blank canvas for retailers. I think the mall is working for both consumers and retailers right now simply because it's been the only option.

Just think about it, how many people would choose to go to a given store in a mall if they could go "downtown" to the same store? In almost every case people will chose the downtown location. The problem with downtown Tacoma is not really the mall, it's population. As downtown becomes more dense, it's going to make more sense for retailers to locate there. With thriving museums, condos brimming with occupants, and a thriving business climate, it will be a no-brainer for retailers to locate there instead of out in the boonies by the current mall.

Just a matter of time as far as I am concerned...

by Erik on 7/21/2008 @ 10:53am
Today, the Looking Glass reports the imminent opening of the expanded Nordstroms on September 30th.


Hopefully,downtown Tacoma will fare better this time than it did 40 years ago when the mall opened.

Here is Ms. Tacoma then on May 16, 1968:

Picture from the Tacoma library.

Ms. Tacoma was certainly used well by in the Tacoma Mall marketeers. Downtown Tacoma meanwhile sat like a doe in the headlights of a massively subsidized suburban expansion campaign.

Within 10 years, downtown Tacoma would come to look like a scene from Mad Max Beyond Thurnderdome and now has only partially recovered.

Photo by Stephen Cysewski


Ms. Tacoma is no where to be found these days.

However, we do have another heroine to defend the city:


by fredo on 7/21/2008 @ 11:06am
The popularity of the Tacoma Mall and the suburban strip malls in general is a function of the relatively low price of oil and the high availability of parking. Once the scale tips the other way, then the shopping areas most easily accessable by transit will be popular. There are some interesting stores downtown but we rarely go down there for shopping.

by fredo on 7/21/2008 @ 11:09am
I forgot to note that there's a great picture of a VOX Super Beatle amplifier behind Ms. Tacoma in the photograph.

by Erik on 7/21/2008 @ 11:20am
The popularity of the Tacoma Mall and the suburban strip malls in general ....

Many other factors played into it than cheap gas.

The Tacoma Mall was a highly subsidized and government supported creation.

But it wasn't just that. There were likely a dozen errors made on downtown by political leaders and others that killed it off.

Other downtowns in Washington suffered a hit in the 1970s and 1980s, but downtown Tacoma suffered about the worst.

That might be a subject of an article one day:

Who killed downtown Tacoma?

by NineInchNachos on 7/21/2008 @ 11:29am

hu friggin ray for the tacoma maul. maybe if we all pray hard enough, one of the Air Show military planes will crash into the Maul. It is Downtown's only salvation.

by Erik on 7/21/2008 @ 11:36am
There are many possible futures RR. Keep hope alive.

Its useful to keep in mind though that civic life and many basic civil rights do not exist on purely private property and with the elimination of the commons.

by NineInchNachos on 7/21/2008 @ 11:59am