Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 1, 2011 at 12:04am

Tacoma Should Start "Retrofitting" the Massive Swaths of Dead Zones in Tacoma: Here's How

Current Condition in Tacoma: 

Solution: Retrofit Tacoma's Dead Zones aka "Underperforming Asphalt"

(Click button above to play clip)

"Ellen Dunham-Jones fires the starting shot for the next 50 years' big sustainable design project: retrofitting suburbia."

Ellen Dunham-Jones teaches architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is an award-winning architect and a board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism. She shows how design of where we live impacts some of the most pressing issues of our times -- reducing our ecological footprint and energy consumption while improving our health and communities and providing living options for all ages.

Dunham-Jones is widely recognized as a leader in finding solutions for aging suburbs. She is the co-author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs. She and co-author June Williamson share more than 50 case studies across North America of "underperforming asphalt properties" that have been redesigned and redeveloped into walkable, sustainable vital centers of community libraries, city halls, town centers, schools and more.

"Ellen Dunham-Jones helps provide evidence the new administration needs to put together a broad spectrum program that will create jobs, improve quality of life for all, and energy independence."

More from TED

comments [15]  |  posted under Tacoma


by L.S.Erhardt on 3/1/2011 @ 10:42am
Want to make a big impact? Put up a 100MW solar array on some of these empty parcels... Or better yet, build a 500M tall solar tower. One that big could really produce some juice.

by NineInchNachos on 3/1/2011 @ 10:46am
build more museums!

by fredo on 3/1/2011 @ 10:58am
Use the Sauro's lot to erect a 300 foot tall statue based on RRs wonderful Tacomic "The Goddess of 9th & Commerce" This would attract more visitors than all the museums combined.

by L.S.Erhardt on 3/1/2011 @ 11:05am
"Never underestimate the power of food"
Indeed. I wonder what kind of an effect the power team of the downtown IGA and McMenamins will spark.

by Jesse on 3/1/2011 @ 11:29am
I bid the mall a quick and painful death.

Thank you.

by cisserosmiley on 3/1/2011 @ 11:34am
there are other missing pieces to make dt a community, but there are dt folks who want the more traditional big biz reformation and won't give in to lowering rental rates. they see economic benefit in basically squatting on near empty property in tacoma until times change. this is singularily the most destructive force in t-town.

by fredo on 3/1/2011 @ 11:36am
We need the mall so that the disaffected youth (AKA gangbangers) of Tacoma will have a pleasant climate controlled environment to prance about in.

by Erik on 3/1/2011 @ 11:47am
Hidden in the initial AHBL document for the Tacoma Mixed Use Center recommendations, there actually WAS a plan to retrofit and reclaim the Tacoma Mall and Westgate. However, disappeared somehow.

The plan was to basically re-grid the mall areas so humans could function in it again.

by Jesse on 3/1/2011 @ 12:04pm
I like the speakers idea of retrofitting a dead mall into housing, nursing homes, health club, or whatever. I wish that would happen to the Tacoma Mall and they could build two malls. One mall downtown and one a bit farther down I-5 as to not be a sucking leach for business in the core.

by Erik on 3/1/2011 @ 12:53pm
Here some ways Malls can be retro fitted:

Sprawl is still the prevailing growth pattern in the U.S., but it is the least sustainable and the least affordable for public and private investment. There is growing evidence of its unsupportable environmental, social and even medical costs. American sprawl is even considered responsible for the current global financial crisis, triggered by the mortgage defaults of over-extended commuters. Yet the developing world continues to copy our sprawling example, with disturbing implications for global challenges like climate change.

Since this misguided investment cannot be abandoned, new urbanists have long been engaged in repairing and retrofitting the patterns of sprawl into quality human environments. We have shown that it is possible to do so, leveraging our actions with a growing strategic toolkit of approaches. In this important work we can set a positive example for others in the U.S. and internationally, in a time of converging economic, social and environmental crises but also great opportunities.

Now is the time to secure the terms of restructuring and redevelopment of suburbia - so that retrofitted centers are walkable, diverse and environmentally sustainable. CNU members must play key advisory and design roles in this most urgent and important project of the 21st century. We can work with the new administration and other sympathetic governments and leaders to develop new federal, state, and regional policies, along with strategic design tools and guidelines. The Sprawl Retrofit initiative will take forward this important work, by creating policy proposals, regulatory frameworks, a database on successes and opportunities, and a �toolkit� of design strategies.


by Erik on 3/1/2011 @ 12:54pm
Here is an awesome complete presentation on mall Retrofitting:


by Mofo from the Hood on 3/2/2011 @ 7:59am
Any woman could point out so-called dead spaces and advocate new construction. But then what? Stand back and watch the cycle of decline repeat itself?

Why should a great concept like an enclosed mall, which is a controlled environment, decline?

Could decline happen through political mechanisms?

Did downtown Tacoma decline through political mechanisms? Or was the decline due to global warming, gas prices, and cheap land outside the city limits?

by Jesse on 3/2/2011 @ 8:12am
Well, there's a time and a place for everything. I am assuming the speaker is noting that the time and place of most suburban malls, considering they were built long ago, are now more central to the city. The real estate is more valuable and there needs to be in-fill of density in most of these spots.

I personally like the Tacoma mall's current format... but there is a time and a place for everything and that was never a good place for a mall considering it cannibalizes downtown shopping and I think a strong downtown is more important to the entire county than most of our politicians (mostly the county level ones) realize.

Indoor malls work best in the northwest because of the weather.

by fredo on 3/2/2011 @ 8:32am
When the streetcar lines were operating in Tacoma they funneled people into the downtown area. Then our enlightened leaders had all the track ripped out or buried in asphalt (still visible in some areas). This resulted for better or worse in the redistribution of businesses. Pretty hard to turn the clock back to yesterday but I'll see if I can locate any examples.

by fredo on 3/2/2011 @ 8:36am
Time machine: personal model demonstrated