KFnet in T-Town

Dec. 6, 2007 at 7:21am

Fixing Freighthouse

What would you do?

A new cafe, sushi place, Hawaiian food place, train club, whatever -- Freighthouse still isn't there. The corridor that threads visitors between stores is cramped with scents that remind me of grandma's house. Looking left or right into any store reveals few if any shoppers and little of anything most would want to buy. The entire building's layout doesn't prove inviting for passers by nor inside. Even the food court, the anchor that's keeping Freighthouse alive, is a bit cramped and feels of a school cafeteria.

I'm not aiming to be pointlessly harsh here but put some constructive criticism out there and offer up some ideas from myself and other members of the community. I love Tacoma, SoDo and the Dome District.

So how to fix it? Are there immediate measures store owners or building managers could take or is this an issue that can only be solved by starting over? Or is this area just doomed to be Tacoma's dumping ground for parking and transit? What would you suggest?

Here's my take:

First, just wait. Local improvements like the "D" Street overpass, the McKinley Park revitalization plan, and LeMay Museum will help bring connectivity with the rest of Tacoma as well as yet more visitors to the area.

Second, wait some more. I think the visitor or commuter angle is covered pretty well and moves plenty of people through the area with the Sounder and events at the Dome. But it's still not enough. Tacoman's don't go out of their way to visit Freighthouse so nearby residents will be key. A proposed new condo project at the edge of Freighthouse and the parking garages might bring stable influx of people that will patronize and demand stronger offerings at Freighthouse.

Third, let's fix the space. Freighthouse is great as a historical depot for rail freight but its charm is lost as it's currently configured. Let's go floor to roof with the dividers between shops and get rid of solid walls in favor for glass display windows. Further, punch out on the 25th Street side by removing walls and replacing them with garage-like, glass paned, retractable walls. This will allow people to see more of what's going on inside Freighthouse without having to take that leap of faith that is currently required. Entrances directly to all shops from outside would also help remove any barriers to entry. The garage style of walls and maybe adding retractable awnings will also allow vendors to take advantage of what good weather we have by opening up onto the sidewalk and merge a bit more with the Dome District Farmers' Market. I also think letting more light in there, with skylights in the roof and more windows even on the Sounder side of things, will bring some much need life and fresh air (literally and otherwise) to Freighthouse.

comments [19]  |  posted under dome district, freighthouse square, shopping, tacoma


by izenmania on 12/6/2007 @ 8:54am
Yes, that's what we need: even more condos!

by jenyum on 12/6/2007 @ 9:48am
Air and light, yes, and generally, fix the flow problems in the building. It feels uncomfortable and cramped and really isn't conducive to browsing. Some of the smaller stores like "A British Affair" would be more tempting if they were just surrounded by a low barrier rather than any wall at all. At least they have glass now, so you can see inside.

Overall, the place needs consistent management, better communication and PR. Even if they just submitted all their events to all the free local web calendars and the Tacoma Arts Listserv they'd probably have more in attendance.

by NineInchNachos on 12/6/2007 @ 9:49am
need a good board games shop or comic book store. maybe a dedicated hobby shop--model rockets/RC cars/trains... laboratory surplus store would be nice... get some good ventilation going for the food court to fix the armpit smell...

by NineInchNachos on 12/6/2007 @ 9:50am
radio shack sucks

by Erik on 12/6/2007 @ 9:54am
Further, punch out on the 25th Street side by removing walls and replacing them with garage-like, glass paned, retractable walls.

Yep. That would help. They have actually been creating more windows little by little. The new coffee shop has some more.

A proposed new condo project at the edge of Freighthouse and the parking garages might bring stable influx of people that will patronize and demand stronger offerings at Freighthouse.

Apparently, there used to be a large neighborhood here before they moved in the Tacoma Dome. Now the place is almost empty completely of anyone. The great part about living here is they you would create an instant urban villiage. FS has so many spaces, it would automatically change to accomodate the new residents for whatever they needed.

Usually, residential areas have a hard time getting retail at all. Here, the retail is already here withing walking distance of a number of places they could could apartments and condos. Plus, right next to the heart of the transit lines over every sort: Amtrack, LINK, buses.

Another big question is the massive space left by Katie's antique on the ground floor. Here's space for a huge tenant.

by NineInchNachos on 12/6/2007 @ 10:09am
I wish the Habitat for Humanity ReStore would move into that huge space. The ReStore makes a good hobbyshop substitute for the handyman. I'd go there everyday on my lunch break via Link Lightrail!

by Erik on 12/6/2007 @ 12:14pm
need a good board games shop or comic book store. maybe a dedicated hobby shop--model rockets/RC cars/trains

They actually do have a new gaming shop:

by NineInchNachos on 12/6/2007 @ 12:28pm
is it just video games though? I'm looking for old school board games.

by Erik on 12/6/2007 @ 3:15pm
I'm looking for old school board games.

I did not see any unless race cars or Legos (TM) qualify.

by crono on 12/6/2007 @ 10:26pm
first thing that needs to happen is to remove the subway.
nineinnachos, they sell used video games for most systems. nes, snes. genesis, n64, dreamcast, xbox, gamecube, psx, ps2, ps3, xbox360.. they have everything used. i wish they sold new games. they are the closest thing we have to a local video game shop after funco/gamestop put all our awesome shops out of business. :(

by izenmania on 12/6/2007 @ 10:36pm
need a good board games shop or comic book store. maybe a dedicated hobby shop--model rockets/RC cars/trains..

That just reminds me of the heyday of Freighthouse Square, back when I used to go there as a youth (more so than I am now... in the mid-nineties) every month to visit Lady Jane's Comics, my first regular comic shop, and would occasionally kill an extra few minutes at the model train shop down the hall.

They used to have all these things... what happened?

by KevinFreitas on 12/11/2007 @ 4:47pm
Guess a water pipe inside broke over there today. I hope some serious money goes into make some changes over there soon. Otherwise the building may decide to ruin itself.

by NineInchNachos on 12/11/2007 @ 5:42pm
@izenmania, I knew it! I thought I could detect the ghost of a local comic shop haunting that building... it has the perfect conditions... the stank, the low rent. It makes me sad I never got to experience it myself. so it goes. even so I take comfort that the shop will always be there for non-linear beings.
What I wouldn't give to have access to a freight house square hobby shop! Although Tacoma now has a local art supply store, it isn't the same as a hobby shop.

@crono, the only video game system I have is an NES and I turned that into a reading light. I already own the greatest NES game ever invented (which happens to be PIRATES! GOLD) so it is unlikely I'll be buying any infernal VIDEO games. No sir, I'm looking for the traditional American, family values BOARD games made of paper, cards and lead figurines. Games where you're forced to use your imagination and wear trench coats.
farming game

by thriceallamerican on 12/11/2007 @ 7:18pm
I think I may have seen some model cars through the window of one of the Middle Floor Merchants the other day. Didn't go in so I'm not sure how their "hobby" selection is.

There's always Hobby Town in Parkland, I guess...

by jenyum on 12/11/2007 @ 7:55pm
Is the shop in Proctor not there anymore?

by Erik on 12/11/2007 @ 8:34pm
Is the shop in Proctor not there anymore?


Tacoma Trains & Hobbies
3813 N 26th St
Tacoma, WA 98407-5807
(253) 756-7517

by NineInchNachos on 12/11/2007 @ 11:04pm
interesting... will have to check er out. need a new soldering iron tip and an HO scale steam shovel.

by Republican (By Default) on 12/12/2007 @ 5:40pm
I think that the Freighthouse problem is really just a symptom of a much larger problem that exists in Tacoma. There's a lack of cohesion in direction the city is taking. To simplify I'll just ask: Is Freighthouse part of downtown? Is it part of the industrial area? Is it a destination on it's own?

If it's part of downtown then it needs to cater to the needs of working people. Maybe gifts, office supplies or 'convenience stores' would be the way to go. But more than that it has to organize it's merchants and supporters so that it has a voice in decisions that are made by the city, the port and the RTID.

If it's part of the industrial area then maybe it could be converted into a design center. Or maybe a one-stop construction/remodeling center with designers, contractors, home-store (contractors desks), finance institutions and other related service and supply companies.

If it's a destination then it needs to have a theme instead of the hodgepodge, year-round swap meet atmosphere that exists there now.

by New-Freight on 12/15/2007 @ 7:38pm
Some good suggestions,others far fetched and a few things we have begun to do. I am glad to hear that someone noticed even if it was just a broken pipe (now repaired). This building will continue to prosper as we add to the already diverse tenant base. Freighthouse Square offers a wide variety of dining choices(12), art venues, clothing stores, and specialty shops. We will continue to host events and private parties in the Phoenix Hall and Lower Phoenix which is pictured on the previous post. Look for us on the events calendar or www.freighthousesquare.com. See you at the Square.


Although I have another home on the web I thought it might be nice to lead by example a bit and put this blog system up to the test myself.

So far, so good... Funny how I build web tools for other people that are far better than the one's I have setup over on KFnet.


Hey Clear Channel, Clean Up Your Crap!

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