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What, Tacoma, depressed? The devil’s in the details

Post by Kathleen Cooper / The News Tribune on March 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm with 7 Comments »
March 22, 2011 3:46 pm

Our journalistic brethren to the north took a broad look today at Tacoma, connecting some of the city’s recent and potential losses downtown and asking whether we’ll ever be able to recover.

I know that if I tried to encompass Seattle’s recent history – what with the collapse of WaMu, $4 an hour parking in some places, turmoil in the school district and that whole viaduct thing – I’d probably miss some subtleties, too. That’s OK. I only noticed two real errors in the story. The Children’s Museum won’t “break ground” on its new space, since it’s moving into a building that’s been around for more than 100 years. And, the McMenamins complex won’t have a movie theater. It will sometimes have a living-room style space where they show a movie every now and then. (That’s according to the developer, who I called today just to make sure.)

As for the rest of the details in the story, we’ve reported on them all in great detail. But one particular quote struck me:

“There’s no question Tacoma is a depressed market,” a Seattle investment broker said.

To support that, statistics from Colliers International show Tacoma’s Class A office vacancy rate at 30 percent now that Russell has left. It was 7 percent before. That’s a big jump, no doubt.

What’s lacking is some perspective, which I think is essential to telling the whole story. The same Colliers researchers also know the size of Tacoma’s and Seattle’s markets. Seattle has 52 million square feet of office space. Downtown Tacoma’s market is 13 times smaller, with about 4 million square feet of office space.

All that means is that in Tacoma, one big tenant, like the one that used to fill 909 A St., can have a disproportionate effect on statistics. Maybe it can on the market, too. But I’m not sure that one empty office building means that Tacoma is depressed. In fact, Colliers’ quarterly report from the end of 2010, the most recent available, said this about Russell’s move:

“If this one tenant had not moved to Seattle, the Pierce County office market actually would have seen moderate growth.”

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. Yeah. Take that seattle times. And your political cartoons suckit too.

  2. dirtydan54 says:

    That one key word in the last sentence says it all. If.

  3. One reason why large super tenants aren’t maybe such a good strategy. They can always leave, but if they stick around, they can also politically hold a city hostage.

  4. I remember as a kid how downtown used to be. Sears was there and a few other big names. When Sears left to go to the mall, downtown died. I believe that big names do need to come into downtown. And if they require a little “attention”, so be it. The benefits outweigh the downside. Look at Portland and even Seattle. Tacoma could market itself as NOT SEATTLE…look at us…we have cheap parking…come shop downtown. Oh yeah…it can be great again, just need to sell some big names here and Tacoma is set!

  5. Yes, the “second city syndrome” hits Tacoma harder than Jersey, I think. At least we don’t have a “Tacoma Shore” show…

    How about we build another business to replace Russell? I’m sure we have enough entrepreneurs around. I’m just tired of the fatalism.

  6. You never know. Maybe Tacoma Shore television could save us. Throw in a Tacoma Housewives at the same time. hehe that would be a great show….Tacoma Housewives…haha cracking myself up…ok.

    Fact is…yes Tacoma is depressed. Just look at the single family home values.

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