TDI -- Reporter's Blog

Apr. 27, 2012 at 8:09am

Moving Day

OK, let's do this . . .

comments [1]

Apr. 25, 2012 at 8:22am

TDI's Pacific Avenue Ghost

The Tacoma Daily Index is moving its world headquarters out of the Washington Building in downtown Tacoma and into a building just steps away from Wright Park. Packing up my office has been a great opportunity to uncover some historic "artifacts" related to our 122-year-old newspaper.

Here's another one: an old photograph of the newspaper's first headquarters.

The newspaper was first published on May 1, 1890 as a single-sheet under the name of the Daily Mortgage and Lien Record. The name then changed to the Daily Court and Commercial Index. At some point, the name permanently changed to the Tacoma Daily Index.

When it opened its doors in 1890, it did so inside a five-story stone-and-brick building located at 1110-1116 Pacific Avenue (formerly known as the California Building -- I would link to the Tacoma Public Library's Northwest Room Building Index search results, but sections of the site have been down since yesterday).

Last week, I decided to visit our old headquarters site -- easy to do; it's only a half-block away. Here's what I found . . .

According to Tacoma Public Library's Northwest Room, the cool old California Building (pictured in a black and white photo ca. 1890) was home to Merrick Brothers clothing and shoe store; St. John's Pharmacy; I.J. Sharick jewelers; and Fidelity Rent & Collection Company. A photographer and "crayon artist" named Arthur French had a live/work space there, too. 

The building was demolished in 1931 and replaced by (surprise!) a parking garage

comments [23]

Apr. 16, 2012 at 9:25am

On The Move

The Tacoma Daily Index is moving out of its world headquarters at 11th and Pacific at the end of this month.

Our newspaper has a 122-year history in Tacoma. It was first published on May 1, 1890 as a single-sheet under the name of the Daily Mortgage and Lien Record. The name then changed to the Daily Court and Commercial Index before finally settling on the Tacoma Daily Index. You can learn more about our newspaper's history here.

During the process of packing up my office for the big move, I came across an edition of the newspaper dating back to Oct. 8, 1964. 

The advertising that appeared in that edition caught my attention.

Who's in the market for a state-of-the-art typewriter?

Can't afford to buy a fancy new typewriter? Maybe you could rent one instead . . .

Check out our old phone number . . .

Looking to hire a freelance court reporter?

How about a legal secretary?

Or maybe you need to get some dry cleaning done?

I'll continue to post more items of interest while I pack up my office.

comments [9]

Apr. 10, 2012 at 3:44pm

Vanishing Tacoma

This was the scene in August 2011 . . .

This was the scene today . . .

comments [11]

Apr. 9, 2012 at 9:40am

Tacoma's Big Screen Dream

I'm in the midst of some spring cleaning here at Tacoma Daily Index world headquarters. It's part of some changes that are afoot here at the newspaper (more details later). In going through some old boxes and drawers, I've been finding some interesting things that I plan to share here on the blog over the next couple weeks or so.

First up . . . plans for a downtown movie theater! You've probably heard that rumor before. Downtown is famous for its roster of developers with big ideas and empty pockets. But at one point (I'm guessing the mid-1990s based on the documents), a San Diego consultant was tapped to work on the "Downtown Tacoma Project" -- a plan to revitalize an area of Broadway that began about halfway down Antique Row. Here's the view looking north. That boxy building in the middle of the drawing? That's the Elk's Temple.

According to the literature:

"Through the adaptive reuse of numerous turn-of-the-century buildings, the Downtown Tacoma project creates a dynamic urban retail entertainment development. The project features an 80,000 square foot two-level state-of-the-art cinema, along with some of the nation's finest fashion and lifestyle retailers. Inviting restaurants and cafes complement the mix. Topping off the project will be 100 live/work lofts with spectacular views of Thea Foss Waterway. Downtown Tacoma provides a unique destination, and acts as a catalyst to additional developments in the Arts District."

That giant movie theater would have been located at 711 Broadway, which is currently nothing but a giant precipice overlooking a parking lot on Commerce Street.

comments [7]

Mar. 9, 2012 at 8:17am

Tacoma's Wal-Mart Problem Solved

(spotted on I-5 near Portland Avenue)

comments [20]

Feb. 10, 2012 at 8:00am

Is This the Ugliest Stretch of Downtown Tacoma?


(from left to right)

1126 Pacific Avenue -- a.k.a., The "Computer Hard Drive Tower" Tower

1120 Pacific Avenue -- a.k.a., The "Plenty of Terrace Space for Smoke Breaks" Building

1114 Pacific Avenue -- a.k.a., The "BunkTress" (a bunker/fortress combo)

1102 Pacific Avenue -- a.k.a., The "Poor Man's Rem Koolhaas Tribute" Building

comments [11]

Feb. 9, 2012 at 10:55am

Commencement Bank Relocates Downtown

Spotted this morning . . .

If you read the Tacoma Daily Index, then this is old news. I reported on it last month . . .

A massive tenant improvement project is under way at 1102 Commerce Street in downtown Tacoma. According to Tom Brown of Neil Walter Company, the commercial real estate broker for the building, Commencement Bank, currently located at 1135 Broadway Plaza, will be moving into the building in March. The bank will occupy approximately 12,000-square-feet of the 34,110-square-foot building, including the Commerce Street, third, and sixth floors. The building's ownership group is also installing a new HV/AC system throughout the entire building. The six-story, 38-year-old building has been a hub for banks in recent years. Union Bank permanently closed its location there in September, choosing to consolidate its operations at 1502 Commerce Street. In 2010, the previous tenant, Frontier Bank, was purchased by Union Bank.

The banner signage announcing the move is new.

comments [2]

Feb. 3, 2012 at 8:35am

TDI Photo Safari VIII

Two months since the last TDI Photo Safari. My, how time flies. Here we go . . .

Good morning, Mt. Tahoma!

This is what happens when someone gives you a mini pumpkin in October for your office and you forget about it until late-January . . .

If you are a huge fan of the 1962 World's Fair, congratulations! It's your lucky month . . .

Confidential to Mr. A.: Thank you, sir!

Now THAT'S an understatement . . .

A merchant with a sense of humor . . .

Coolest dog in Tacoma?

Holy crap, they are really tearing apart the Murray Morgan Bridge deck . . .

Book 'em, Danno . . .

The lights are on, nobody's home . . .

Dirt cheap rent near a busy downtown corner, but it still sits vacant . . .

Good night, Mt. Tahoma!

Earlier TDI Photo Safaris here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

comments [5]

Feb. 1, 2012 at 2:24pm

Downtown 'Fresh Market' RIP

This was the scene in September . . .

This is the scene today . . .

Well, that didn't take long.

Doors are locked, shelves are dismantled, inventory is gone, lights are off, signage is removed, and a giant 'for lease' sign was in the window yesterday.

comments [28]

Jan. 12, 2012 at 1:44pm

Coming Soon: Downtown Bubble Tea Shop

Spotted this morning at 1724 Pacific Avenue in the Joy Building on the University of Washington Tacoma campus: 'Bubbles: Bubble Tea Shop' is coming soon . . .

Personally, not too crazy about bubble tea. But I'm guessing it will do well with the students at UWT and SOTA.

comments [5]

Jan. 6, 2012 at 3:20pm

NoteWorld Redux

This has been the scene for awhile near 10th and Pacific downtown . . .

This is the scene today . . .

Beginning Monday, NoteWorld Servicing Center will be known as Meracord.

comments [0]

Dec. 20, 2011 at 2:55pm

What's Going On at Bernardo's Aroma Cafe?

This is the scene today at Bernardo's Aroma Cafe (1201 Pacific Avenue) located on the ground floor of Wells Fargo Plaza . . .

It looks ominous: windows papered over; lights off; empty cash register on a table; no signs regarding closing (for the holidays or permanently), remodeling, etc; phone calls go straight to a generic-type voice mail box.

If you are keeping score at home, Bernardo's moved to this pace from its former home at 1001 Pacific Avenue (now home to Vinum) some time ago. 

Bernardo's has always been a decent place for a good cup of coffee or a quick lunch. If you have any info, share it here. If I hear back from Bernardo, I'll share it, too.

comments [6]

Dec. 5, 2011 at 8:40am

Dockside Donuts Opens

From the ashes of what was formerly "The Saddest Dairy Queen in Tacoma" rises Dockside Donuts . . .

I stopped by the new shop on my way to Tacoma Daily Index world headquarters to buy donuts for my co-workers. The donut shop, located at 1112 Puyallup Avenue, has been open five days and was doing a pretty brisk business this morning. Here's their ad in Tacoma Weekly . . .

Earlier TDI Reporter's Notebook coverage here.

comments [3]

Nov. 22, 2011 at 11:32am

Today's Great Mystery

Here is the current forecast . . .

Here is what's happening at Pacific Plaza right now . . .

I must be missing something.

comments [6]

Nov. 15, 2011 at 8:30am

TDI Photo Safari VII

Who's up for another installment of the TDI Photo Safari? Me, too. OK, let's do this.

Best letter to the editor ever?

A new 'Mercedes Benz of Tacoma' dealership opened yesterday. Too bad it's in Fife.

New York Times Crossword Puzzle, November 10, 2011, 44 (Down). "City on Commencement Bay."


More junk mail at TDI world headquarters.

A transit term that is new to me.

The building inside the building. Background info here and here and here.

Earlier photo safaris here and here and here and here and here and here.

comments [9]

Oct. 19, 2011 at 8:11am

Dockside Donut

The former site of "The Saddest Dairy Queen In Tacoma" (1112 Puyallup Avenue) will soon be home to Dockside Donut . . .

comments [10]

Oct. 5, 2011 at 11:45am

TDI Mail Bag IV

It's been a long time since we cracked open the mail bag here at Tacoma Daily Index world headquarters. What kind of PR 'goodness' do we have this week?

OK then. 

That concludes another installment of the TDI Mail Bag. Earlier installments here and here and here.

comments [1]

Sep. 28, 2011 at 7:51am

Clancy's Coffee RIP

Clancy's Coffee, located at 1911 Pacific Ave. near the University of Washington Tacoma campus, has been dark for awhile now. Yesterday I decided to stop by and see what was going on. Here's the notice on the door . . .


Don't prepare for anything too exciting. The doors are locked and the lights are off. A post August 21 on the coffee shop's Facebook page notes: "It has been an amazing year, but unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances, Clancy's Coffee has closed it's [sic] doors. On to new opportunities :) Thank you all so much!!"

It's been kind of a weird week so far for downtown merchants.

comments [7]

Sep. 27, 2011 at 1:26pm

Frost Park Fountain 2.0

I just got the "thumbs up" from two Tacoma Public Works employees testing the fountain at Larry Frost Memorial Park. "It works!" one grinning worker hollered at me over the splash of water while I shot a few photographs. Indeed, just in time for fall/winter, the fountain is up and running again.

Earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage here and here and here and here.

comments [8]

Sep. 27, 2011 at 9:00am

Downtown 'Fresh Market'

Tacoma City Grocer's new 'frenemy'?

The notices taped to the window indicate 'Hiliotrad LLC' is opening 'Fresh Market,' a grocery store offering beer and wine, at 821 Pacific Avenue . . . 

Spotted this morning on my way to Tacoma Daily Index world headquarters.

comments [6]

Sep. 20, 2011 at 2:20pm

Downtown Tacoma's New Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

The memorial to urban decay that is otherwise known as 'Park Plaza North' has been getting some long overdue attention. In July, a bike cage on the fifth floor was installed. Work is currently under way to repair the fountain at Frost Park, which caps the north end of the garage. And this week, four electric vehicle charging stations were installed. 

According to City of Tacoma project manager Josh Clarke, who happened to be checking out the new installations when I dropped by the fifth floor this afternoon (the stations are right next to the bike cage), the charging stations were installed Monday and will provide juice to many of the new Nissan Leaf electric fleet vehicles that have been parked at the Tacoma Municipal Building. 

If you are keeping score at home, earlier this year Tacoma City Council voted to purchase (10) 2011 Nissan Leaf electric vehicles (as well as (11) 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid vehicles). Clarke told me the charging stations are only available to the city-owned electric fleet vehicles right now, but the hope is that it can be expanded to the general public at a later date (the stations come equipped with credit card readers). A similar charging station exists over at the Center for Urban Waters.

Earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of electric fleet vehicles in Tacoma and Washington State here and here and here and here and here and here.

I shot these photos of the new charging stations this afternoon . . .

comments [16]

Sep. 14, 2011 at 10:11am

Freighthouse Where?

This was the scene at Freighthouse Square Wednesday morning, where one-half of the building is dark and locked . . .

The message reads:


We are very sorry for the inconvenience the temporary building section closing has caused you.

Obviously the safety to our customers and our employees is of our utmost concern and we are working closely with Freighthouse Management to insure a swift, but secure re-opening.

This temporary closure has NOTHING to do with any action by Seasonal Delights, but is strictly a building issue.

We look forward to serving you in the near future and THANK YOU SINCERELY for the wonderful business we have been blessed with.

Keep updated via FACEBOOK at Seasonal Delights Cafe & Espresso Co.

As far as I can tell, nothing has been posted to Seasonal Delights' Facebook page since Aug. 31. 

Poor Freighthouse Square.

comments [4]

Sep. 6, 2011 at 12:30pm

6 Downtown Tacoma Observations

I. Sun Dance Cafe is apparently taking over the old Pastrami's New York Eatery space at 950 Broadway 

II. Oh, no! No 'O'!

III. The Bank of Tacoma is now AmericanWest Bank

IV. The Olympus Hotel is getting a major renovation

V. Cool art wall on a boarded up side of the old Elk's Temple near Spanish Steps

VI. This was the scene at City Grocer IGA on Friday (it opens tomorrow)

comments [4]

Aug. 23, 2011 at 8:15am

Downtown City Grocer Signage

I witnessed this scene on my way home yesterday . . .

Background / context here and here:


On Feb. 15, business partners officially confirmed a lease that will bring a grocery store to downtown Tacoma this summer. Pacific Plaza, a former parking garage, will be transformed into an environmentally friendly, full service, 16,000-square-foot IGA brand grocery store, partners announced. Whidbey Island based The Myers Group partnered with owners of the plaza to bring the store to Tacoma. It owns and operates four other grocery stores in Washington, including the Kress IGA near Pike Place Market in Seattle.

comments [5]

Aug. 15, 2011 at 9:10am

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

The Tacoma Daily Index's Web site is admittedly a clunky salute to late-1990s Web design, but I'm pleased to say we get a fair amount of traffic for a small newspaper. I find myself mildly addicted to the site's Google Analytics report -- specifically, searches people conduct on our Web site. We get the usual keyword searches ("Tacoma," "Downtown," "City Council," etc.). But a few other (and more interesting) searches perennially rise to the surface. For example, here are some of the more popular keyword searches over the past 30 days.

People really want to know more about Dorky's Arcade downtown ("dorky's arcade capacity," "dorky's arcade opened," "dorkys arcade hours," "dorky's tacoma daily index," "dorkys arcade in tacoma"). 

They want to know more about Jeff Smeed's bicycle ice cream operation ("bicycles for ice cream sales," "how much can a bicycle ice cream vender make in a day," "how much can an ice cream bike sell in a day," "how to make money wholesaling ice cream," "how to start ice cream bicycle," "time of day most ice cream sold," "selling ice cream on wheels," and "daily ice cream sales"). 

People also want to know what the heck is being built near the Tacoma Dome ("construction south of the tacoma dome?" "what are they building by the tacoma dome?" "what is new structure built near tacoma dome?" "new building under construction next to tacoma dome"). Hint: It's this! 

Finally, they want to know more about that accident they saw while out and about ("a traffic accident," "accident tacoma sunday," "i-5 rollover accident olympia august 3, 2011," "november 22 2010 pierce transit bus accident," "tacoma i-5 accident august 11, 2011," "tacoma portland avenue accident 07/25/11," "wsdot nw region accidents aug 11, 2011").

But the best part of the site's Web stats involves combing through the bizarre and random keyword searches: 

-- is it illegal to dump a cat in the woods?

-- how many straw bale homes in pierce county?

-- cat art museum

-- marilyn strickland terrible mayor

-- why i would be a great ice cream bike

-- lemay cat collection

-- does pierce college have forklift certification classes?

-- history of all taverns in tacoma

-- how idling effects police vehicles mileage

-- how to find meetings of detroit city council

-- hidden cameras for dumping on roadways

-- how can i get into the winthrop in pierce county?

-- as safe as the tacoma narrows bridge billboard

-- pictures of old buildings turned into mini storage

comments [2]

Jul. 22, 2011 at 8:35am

4 Downtown Tacoma Observations

I. Now THAT'S a headline!

II. New Link light rail stop at Commerce and 11th Street almost open (bonus: it's one block away from TDI world headquarters)

III. Well, SOMEONE got a job in this tough economy

(April 2009)

(July 2011)

IV. Spotted in the lobby of the downtown post office

comments [0]

Jul. 21, 2011 at 2:30pm

Tacoma's Bike Cage

I was on the fifth floor of Park Plaza North this morning when I spotted this . . .

That is Tacoma's "Bike Cage." A little research on the Web led me to this month's issue of Downtown On The Go!'s newsletter. Take it away DOTG! . . .

The cage, located at Park Plaza North (923 Commerce Street -- fifth floor), is locked with a code and includes six bike racks inside. To access the cage, simply download the waiver from the DOTG Web site, fill it out, and send it in with your payment. It is only $8.00 per quarter (three months) or $25.00 per year. Once we receive your paperwork, we will give you the access code and you will be all set to start your bike commute! A second bike cage, at Pacific Plaza (1250 Pacific Ave -- third floor), will be coming soon. Stay tuned for details. To sign up, contact Downtown On the Go, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber at (253) 682-1739 or

It sounds like an OK idea. Is anybody using this yet?

comments [5]

Jul. 11, 2011 at 3:51pm

The Original Tacoma Dome

This insert-turned-fold-out-poster was stuffed in yesterday's edition of the New York Times . . .

Very clever, Seattle Art Museum. It now hangs on the office wall here at TDI world headquarters.

comments [4]

May. 31, 2011 at 3:39pm

Damaged Goods Downtown

That must have been a big rock . . . or a big seagull . . . or who knows what . . .

comments [3]

May. 20, 2011 at 11:05am

Best. Op-Art. Ever.

To the person who posted this to a boarded up building along Puyallup Avenue, I just want to personally say 'thank you.'

comments [1]

May. 12, 2011 at 2:44pm

6 Downtown Tacoma Observations

I. Construction under way at Tacoma Dome Station

II. Spotted this week right outside the front doors of the Washington Building (a.k.a., Tacoma Daily Index world headquarters)

III. Speaking of TDI world headquarters, these folks are moving in next door (construction photos here)

IV. Happiness is . . .

V. Pythian Old vs. Pythian New

VI. Let me guess -- someone got shot? Why else would Seattle media be in Tacoma?

comments [2]

Apr. 25, 2011 at 9:20am

5 Downtown Tacoma Observations

I. Tacoma's saddest Dairy Queen ever . . .

II. The Harry P. Cain Promenade gets its proper signage/recognition . . .

III. Yeah, whatever . . .

IV. This has been the future home of Industrial Tire Service since . . . well . . . since before there were tires . . .

V. Clear your calendar . . .

comments [10]

Apr. 21, 2011 at 10:49am

11th Street Link light rail station construction begins

I shot these photos yesterday during lunch. The City of Tacoma confirmed this morning that all the construction activity is indeed for the new Link light rail stop(s) near 11th and Commerce. 

A light rail stop a block away from Tacoma Daily Index 'world headquarters' -- that works for me!

Earlier TDI coverage here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

comments [10]

Apr. 11, 2011 at 12:35pm

Is Old Town Tacoma Historic?

It dates back to the 1860s and is known to everyone as 'Old Town' Tacoma. But whatever you do, don't call the quaint, hillside neighborhood overlooking Commencement Bay 'historic,' say some residents.

On Sept. 15, 2009, a historic district nomination for Old Town was submitted to City Hall. The nomination included a six-page petition signed by more than 100 residential property owners or renters in the area who supported the plan, as wells as a letter of support from the North End Neighborhood Council. It also excluded Old Town's business district and commercial properties located in the zoned "C-2 commercial" area from the proposed historic district overlay. Proponents hoped this will be enough to attain approval. 

Indeed, it wasn't the first time a nomination was made. In 1974, the Old Tacoma Improvement Club sought the designation after conducting a survey that showed support. However, the plan was quashed when commercial property owners opposed it. In the early 1990s, residents again attempted to seek the historic district designation. The request was reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission, but was tabled by City Council, which "directed the historic preservation officer to redo the design review component so that property owners could more easily determine the architectural requirements for future development," according to the most recent nomination.

Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Commission first reviewed the most recent nomination during its meeting in December 2010 (earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage here and here and here).

Opponents learned about the nomination and turned out en masse during a public meeting last month. They argue that such a designation would place restrictions on its freedoms as property owners, and the neighborhood itself consists of buildings and homes that are not as historically significant as perceived. "Old Town is a great place to live and we want to keep it that way," wrote the group in a March 25 letter. "But we also want the ability and flexibility to remodel and improve without governmental intervention or operation by committee." Included with the letter was a petition containing approximately 150 signatures from property owners who oppose the plan. Since then, a second letter, dated April 4 and sent to Tacoma's historic preservation officer, notes 69 more people have signed the petition in opposition. 

I wrote about the current campaign to oppose the historic district for Thursday's edition of the Tacoma Daily Index. I have a follow-up article in today's edition.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to discuss the issue during its meeting Wednesday.

Historically significant buildings in Old Town Tacoma include (clockwise from top left) Slavonian Hall (est. 1907), St. Peters Church (est. 1873), Job Carr Museum (est. 1865), and Olof Carlson House (est. 1899). The current historic district nomination excludes Old Town's business district and commercial properties located in the zoned "C-2 commercial" area from the proposed historic district overlay.

comments [7]

Apr. 7, 2011 at 9:26am

Park Pay Display

Spotted in several storefronts yesterday near UW Tacoma . . .

Background here.

comments [7]

Mar. 28, 2011 at 7:57am

Old City Hall Update

Spotted this morning on the front doors to Old City Hall . . .

Earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage here and here and here and here and here.

comments [9]

Mar. 25, 2011 at 12:00pm

7 Downtown Tacoma Observations

I. The former King's Inn Motel is coming down today to make way for Sounder to Lakewood. The Star Fuel and Ice building is next . . .

II. The former 'Thanks-A-Latte' drive-thru espresso stand near Tacoma Dome Station is now a 'sex-presso' stand . . .

III. MetaBooks, R.I.P.

IV. Happy Teriyaki needs an editor . . .

V. I don't know what it means, but I like it . . .

VI. Some changes are subtle . . .

(last year)



VII. Spotted on the ground-floor of the City-owned Park Plaza North garage. Can someone explain the 'broken windows theory' to the folks at City Hall?

comments [26]

Jan. 19, 2011 at 9:45am

Historic Washington Building Reboot

Washington Building manager David B. Morton and investor and owner representative Michael J. Allan | (PHOTOS BY TODD MATTHEWS / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

It's safe to say the historic Washington Building in downtown Tacoma has seen better days. To be sure, the 1925 structure itself is in great shape: high-speed elevators whisk visitors to their destinations; a $200,000 lobby renovation three years ago still looks brand new; and an on-site superintendent makes sure all the equipment is up and running. 

But five months ago, the Washington Building's biggest tenant, the Washington State Attorney General's Office, moved down the street and into the shiny, LEED-platinum Pacific Plaza -- leaving behind six floors of vacant space. Another challenge for anyone leasing office space in downtown Tacoma: Russell Investments' 900 employees moved out of the company's 12-story building and into its new home in the former WaMu Center in downtown Seattle. Suddenly, there is a flood of available office space in downtown Tacoma. 

The 17-story, 125,000-square-foot Washington Building is owned by a group of investors led by Seattle-based Stratford Company. If you have paid close attention to another iconic historic building downtown -- Old City Hall -- the Stratford Company name should be familiar to you

Last week, I met with Michael J. Allan, Washington Building investor and owner representative, and David B. Morton, Washington Building manager, for an interview. On Jan. 7, Allan and Morton delivered a letter to tenants announcing some of its plans for 2011 (full disclosure: the Tacoma Daily Index is located in the building). The pair shared those plans with me: the ownership group has hired Neil Walter Company to launch a marketing campaign in February to draw new tenants; the group is also working with Umpqua Bank on a financing package that will "improve our cash flow, and thus our ability to maintain and improve the structure and attract new tenants," according to Allan; they have completed a model office unit for prospective tenants and hired a designer to revamp common areas throughout the building; finally, Allan told me one of the building's investors has provided $872,000 to "help us meet all of our financial obligations for a good many periods of time to go. So we've got some positive things to say about the building right now." And despite the economic downturn, Morton told me he was able to attract 13 new tenants last year by focusing on small businesses and start-up companies. 

Still, it's not all rosy. When I inquired about the building's vacancy rate, Allan was reticent. "I'd rather not share that," he said. "We can't deny that it's tough. The economy is just terrible. Our vacancy is very high -- much higher than we would like it to be." 

"The Great Recession is a big headwind in the commercial market that we're just working our way through," added Morton.

My article about the Washington Building appeared in Thursday's edition of the Tacoma Daily Index. You can read it online here (WEB) and here (PDF).

comments [2]

Jan. 10, 2011 at 2:15pm

Last Call for Heidelberg Brewery Buildings?

What's this? Another old Tacoma building faces demolition by wrecking ball and neglect? That is indeed the case for the former Heidelberg Columbia Brewery Building in downtown Tacoma's Union Station Conservation District. 

But before you start to plan a save-the-Luzon-style vigil or fire off e-mails to your city councilmembers, you should keep in mind that decades of re-modeling and new construction followed by fires and neglect have left the brewery complex stripped of most of its historic significance, according to several studies. An historic buildings inventory report completed in 2003 noted "expansion has totally destroyed any traces of the old brewery." An historic property report completed in 2008 notes "the Heidelberg Brewery has suffered from fires and has decayed to a point where it is not economically feasible to save or restore most parts of its several adjoined buildings. The building complex is in very poor condition. A large number of problems and concerns . . . are the result of age and lack of maintenance over the past years, and some concerns are the result of the poor quality of the original construction." And a dangerous building citation issued by the city in November doesn't help matters.

The property owner (the same group that plans to build a 160-room Holiday Inn Express on an adjacent parcel) has submitted a demolition application to the city's permitting department. It also submitted the application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission -- a requirement because the former brewery sits within the Union Station Conservation District, adjacent to the Union-Depot Warehouse Historic district. 

I wrote about the proposed demolition on Friday for the Tacoma Daily Index. To read the article, click here.

The commission will discuss the matter on Weds., Jan. 12 at 5 p.m. in the Tacoma Municipal Building North, 728 St. Helens, Room 16. 

P.S. The gorgeous photograph above is courtesy of Kevin Freitas.

comments [13]

Dec. 20, 2010 at 2:40pm

Downtown Mini Photo Safari VI

I'm headed out of town Wednesday for the holidays and won't be back until Dec. 28. In the interim, be sure to visit the Tacoma Daily Index's clunky old Web site for a daily year-in-review story between now and Dec. 31. 

It seemed like as good a time as any to post the last TDI Reporter's Notebook 'downtown mini photo safari' for the year. Enjoy!

A couple outtakes from the much-read-and-linked-to R. R. Anderson feature


Spotted this full-page ad in the Puget Sound Business Journal and taped it to my office wall

Speaking of newspaper ads, being a friend of the Index has its benefits

Have you picked up your Tacoma buttons from AMOCAT Cafe yet?

Speaking of AMOCAT Cafe, I love their biting sense of humor

My lunchtime quest continues (Dorky's Arcade Dig Dug results as of @ 1 p.m. Mon., Dec. 20)

A couple cool sightings on St. Helens Avenue

(a.) Biker storefront

(b.) Fidel the DIY barber

Finally, our page designer here at the Index used to work at a television station on the East Coast. He once met Miss Universe. He brought this in to work the other day

For earlier photo safaris, click here and here and here and here and here. Happy holidays and have a great 2011!

comments [1]

Dec. 9, 2010 at 8:40am

Dorky's Arcade Observations

This is what the signage outside Dorky's Arcade looked like in August . . .

More permanent signage is under way this week . . .

Meanwhile, my quest to own the Dig Dug top 5 scores continues . . .

comments [4]

Nov. 16, 2010 at 3:10pm

Spanish Steps 2.0

The City of Tacoma recently announced on its Twitter feed that the Spanish Steps re-opened (landscaping work still to be completed). I decided to check it out myself today. Verdict: It looks really nice -- all pristine and repaired. I shot some photos, merged them with some 'before' shots I had on file, and decided to post the resulting montage . . .

Earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage here and here and here and here and here and here.

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Nov. 12, 2010 at 2:50am

Tacoma's Man of Mischief

Inside the curious world of R. R. Anderson

If you spend any time on Feed Tacoma, surely you are familiar with R. R. Anderson. Part performance artist, part political cartoonist, part provocateur, Anderson is the master of a strange and funny world where he says and does things that many of us only wish we had the nerve to do ourselves. The self-titled 'DIY Cultural Arts Specialist' has been drawing the popular 'Tacomic' political cartoons every week for more than three years. Sometimes a Tacomic will hit an issue square in the gut. Sometimes a Tacomic will make you want to wipe your computer screen with a sterile cloth. Love him or hate him, it would be hard to deny that Anderson makes Tacoma, well, Tacoma.

I recently had the opportunity to spend time in Anderson's world. We met for a series of interviews and I was invited to Anderson's Central Tacoma home (a.k.a., the 'Holistic Forge Works Compound') in Central Tacoma to visit Anderson, his wife, Darcy, and son, Max, and tour the couple's backyard art studios. That experience is part of a feature article I wrote that was published this week in the Tacoma Daily Index -- Click here (PDF) or here (WEB) to read the article online.

Anderson will be at King's Books Mon., Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. to read from and sign copies of his new book 100 Tacomics: The Secular and Apolitical Cartoon Life of Tacoma and her Moral People(s), Vol. 001. You can also purchase the book online here. As a bonus, Jeff Smeed of Jeff's Ice Cream fame will be there passing out free paleta ice cream bars to the first 40 people compliments of yours truly.

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Nov. 5, 2010 at 10:30am

Interview: 12th Street Hill Climb Artist

I had the opportunity this week to meet and interview Vancouver, BC artist Jill Anholt to discuss the public art -- "Projecting Drop" -- that is nearly completed at the 12th Street hill climb downtown. Anholt was in town to work on some of the night-time lighting features that will be a part of the art work she created.

Vancouver, BC artist Jill Anholt
(Photo By Todd Matthews / Tacoma Daily Index)

The three-page feature article I wrote appears in today's edition of the Tacoma Daily Index. You can read it online here (Web) and here (PDF). You can go down there today and check out the art work (and access the stairs between Pacific Avenue and Commerce Street), but a formal ceremony marking the project's completion will probably be held in December (perhaps in time for Art Walk).

A couple interesting items from our interview:

(a.) The art installation sits directly above the late-1800s Turkish bath house that was discovered underground during Pacific Plaza's renovation and is now used a cistern for Pacific Plaza's green roof; If you walk on the blue tiles in front of the wall, you are walking directly above the Turkish bath.

(b.) Once night-time features are completed, a motion-activated sensor will project a quotation about Tacoma once published in the Tacoma Daily Ledger onto the wall.

Earlier TDI Reporter's Notebook coverage here.

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Oct. 27, 2010 at 8:30am

Oh Lucky Day

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Oct. 25, 2010 at 1:24pm

Photo of the Day

10th and A Street parking garage. 11:50 a.m. Mon., Oct. 25, 2010

Context here

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Oct. 22, 2010 at 3:00pm

Update: Dorky's Arcade

I spotted this sign outside Dorky's Arcade this week . . .

I like Dorky's Arcade probably a little more than I should. That 92K score left on the Dig Dug machine by "TOD" (#5 on the hi-score board) is proof enough. I will probably like it a little more once they start serving beer and wine. I'm guessing others will, too.

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Oct. 4, 2010 at 2:05pm

12th Street Hill Climb Open Again

Just a quick note to say the fences are gone, the workers have gone home, and the 12th Street Hill Climb is open. I checked it out today at lunch and shot these photos . . .

More info on the project here and here and here and here. I'm told there will be a formal event to mark the opening and public art before year's end. The art installation includes the following message written in the tiles:

from amidst a sombre forest of firs

a city has arisen

as by a stroke of an enchanters wand

Tacoma looks forth

like a new Venice

over the glassy waters

and prepares

to handle

the commerce

of the world

Much different than what it looked like in August 2009 . . .

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A blog following news and features published in the Tacoma Daily Index newspaper.


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