Jesse's Blog

Sep. 25, 2012 at 12:01am

Scheming Theming - Park Place North (PPN)

The other day I promised myself that I would get some of my ideas about imagineering Tacoma out there for you all to read.  I made a list of 26 different ideas to start the process so I could get my thoughts in order and have something to talk about each week - at least for a little while.


One idea I wrote down was one of creating facades for the theming of downtown buildings.  Since the Conversations Tacoma ( topic on their first night (Sept 27) is going to be about facades, I thought I'd write about that this week.


The idea mainly is one of theming the north end of Pacific Avenue as 1890's  to 1900's architecture.  The ability to have a substantial row of historic and historic replica buildings is probably unprecidented, as far as opportunities go, in Tacoma.   Why?  Not only are there substantial historic buildings from that era left but the one main building that would tie almost the entire length of Pacific Avenue together is owned by the City of Tacoma and due for a remodel/repurpose.  That building is Park Place North.


Staying with great urban design principals, I would tackle Park Place North as two buildings.  That is, I would split it in two parts and take 10th street and run it up through to Commerce or Broadway.  On the south end of the building there's a park that I would eliminate as it is primarily there for foot traffic and the street sidewalk on 10th would now exist for that.  Could this be done with the remainder of my imagineered plan?  I'd like to think so but I'm no architect.


Then, I would pick facades from the original Pacific Avenue stretch, and make the Pacific side frontage as replicas of the chosen buildings.  We've all seen the pictures of these great architectural jewels and wished they never had disappeared... they could be back.  Sometimes these ideas end up coming off as hokey and done wrong so you'd have to insist on detail.   There's room for storefronts on the entire block and they should be converted into storefronts, and not surface level parking, again.


Undoubtedly, the building would end up taller than the original buildings that were there and the Park Place North building as it sits today.  I would inset the top floors in from the top of the facade and make the rest of the building glass to appear translucent or reflect the old buildings from across the street.


In the back of the building, I would leave it the same on the first floor and sell the air rights for above Commerce Street.  There, I would court a modern movie theatre complex to build a megaplex theatre that primarily emptied out, as it's "front entrance" onto Broadway through the Theatre on the Square Park.  If you look, you see a foot bridge/sky bridge that passes over Commerce from Park Place North to the Theatre on the Square Park.  This is the level at which the theatre would sit.  It would be built over Commerce street and ontop of the current PPN.


So now you would have converted PPN into vintage storefronts on the Pacific Avenue side to carry the "theme" of Pacific Avenue to most of the buildings along the street.  You'd have parking at the intermediate levels.  The top floors would be a megaplex drawing people into downtown and emptying out in an area filled with places to eat, museums, and hopefully more shopping.  The Commerce bus depot would then be covered from rain.


I know theming and recreating classic architecture can sometimes come off as corny.  This would have to be done right.  Just look at Port Townsend and how they have capitalized on a mere couple of blocks of old buildings to convert the whole town into a tourist mecca.  Tacoma is almost there, like a jack-o-lantern missing it's teeth, it misses sporatic buildings and personality but obtains more of this architecture than probably any other northwest city.  It is something that really can't be stolen or replicated by Seattle.  It gives personality and therefore pride.  It makes a tombstone of a building into a catalyst for a renewed and relegitimized Theatre District and hopefully become a place where people want to be. 

So, what do you think?  Could this or should this be done?  What are the roadblocks?  What would you do with Park Place North?

comments [7]  |  posted under architecture, jesse, movie, pacific, park place north, ppn, scheme, tacoma, theater, theatre, theme, tombstone


by fredo on 9/24/2012 @ 3:41pm

Some good ideas there Jesse. Would the plans to put rain garden ditches in front of the businesses on Pacific Avenue tend to invalidate the desire to turn back the clock? I don't remember seeing a lot of historic photos of DT Tacoma with ditches in front. The other question I would have would be cost. Who would be responsible for transitioning these properties and at what price? Otherwise it would look cool. To be sure.

by Jesse on 9/24/2012 @ 3:54pm
Lol... rain gardens.  I hope they don't end up stinky mosquito traps.  Have faith in the process I guess?

Well, as far as financing, there'd be a cinema on the top floor.  That's part of it.  But how did Park Place South get funded and turned into Pacific Plaza?  I'm no mortgage or real estate guru but I'm sure something like this could be done if the will was there to do it.

by NineInchNachos on 9/24/2012 @ 4:06pm
imagine tacoma!

by Jesse on 9/24/2012 @ 4:15pm
Just like Imagine Tacoma by David Boe - but the difference is that I have no idea what I'm talking about...

by L.S.Erhardt on 9/24/2012 @ 7:52pm
For some unknown reason, my first comment turned out blank. Odd... Ok, repeat:

I've been saying this since the City of Tacoma (COT) revamped Park Place South (PPS) into Pacific Plaza. Park Place North (PPN) isn't as suited to the type of renovation PPS went through, as such PPN needs to be razed.

What I feel OUGHT to go in there are a pair of 25 to 35 story skyscrapers, both mixed use. One could be office/retail, the other residential/hotel or some other combination. The retail aspect needs to be a multi-story "mall" not at all unlike Pacific Place in Seattle. Any movie theaters could be in that building. The residential could be condos or nice apartments. Office needs to be Class A and the hotel needs to be more high-end. Make Commerce mass transit/pedestrian ONLY and have the Pac Ave portion of both towers be club/restaurant space. The Commerce portion be retail/services.

I like the idea behind revamping, but new facades aren't big enough of a change. If we are proposing something that will cost $Millions, we may as well go gusto.

by KevinFreitas on 9/24/2012 @ 9:09pm
I like your vision @Thorax. Tacoma deserves better!

by Jesse on 9/25/2012 @ 7:32am
@Thorax: I like the idea of a large building there but can it be physically done?  I wonder what the substrate is under PPN?  Is it solid rock that would stop underground work like so much of the area or is it soft enough to build underground parking and foundations in?
Besides that, I doubt a 25-35 story building would be done in that spot because who would occupy it?  Right now there's so much vacancy in Tacoma that building a building of that magnitude would not happen.  It's a good vision for the future though.

I would suggest that a downtown mall would go better in another spot.  I think replacing the theatre in my vision with a mall would only sorta work because that whole area does have old spots for anchor stores but they're small ones compared to today's standards.