A weedy vacant lot on the Thea Foss Waterway, once the site of a steam plant that supplied heat to downtown Tacoma, could become downtown Tacoma’s newest park.
The Foss Waterway Development Authority Wednesday will consider purchasing the .7-acre parcel at 1147 E. Dock Street as the site of a future park. The 4 p.m. meeting at 535 Dock St., Suite 204, is open to the public.
Foss Waterway park site outlined in yellow
If the board approves the $400,000 purchase price, the authority will begin looking for grant funds to transform the site into the city’s newest waterfront attraction, said Foss Waterway Development Authority interim Executive Director Su Dowie.
The site, just south of the Murray Morgan East 11th Street Bridge over the formerly industrial waterway, is being sold by California’s EastWest Bank, which acquired the property in a bank takeover.
The site includes 180 feet of frontage on the west side of the Foss Waterway. The waterway authority is charged with transforming that formerly polluted industrial inlet of Commencement Bay into a gentrified waterfront asset adjacent to downtown.
Park site looking toward downtown
The authority, along with other local governments, has already created two parks on the waterway, one on the south end near the BNSF railway tracks and the other on the north end where the waterway opens up to Commencement Bay.
Dowie said the property acquisition would create a publicly accessible green space in the middle of the waterway.
The waterway, once the home of plywood plants, warehouses and the steam plant, has undergone a transformation in the last two decades. The waterway’s west side is now the site of three large residential buildings, the Museum of Glass, a maritime museum, several marinas, an office building and a waterfront esplanade.
The east side of the waterfront has largely remained a working waterfront. Businesses there include the J.M. Martinac Shipyard, a petroleum terminal, and a scaffolding company.
Mixed in with those industrial uses is a marina that’s the home of the Tacoma fishing fleet, Johnny’s Dock restaurant, a large pleasure boat storage facility, a corporate headquarters building and the research-oriented Center for Urban Waters.
Much of the waterway and its adjacent land has been cleaned of pollution including the park site.
The state Department of Ecology cleaned up mercury on the near-shore portion of the park site removing contaminated soil down to the water level and capping the nearby waterway area and that land with clean gravels and soil.
Dowie said the state has said that no further action will be needed to make the site suitable for further development.
The steam plant that once occupied the site, the Consumer’s Central Heating Co., supplied steam through a network of pipes to downtown buildings from the 1920s
through 1980. The steam plant buildings were demolished in 1980. The site has been vacant since.
According to the state, the former owner removed underground oil tanks in 1992. The state Department of Ecology found mercury-contaminated soils on the site in 1993. The state agency initiated a cleanup that was completed in 1997. The department removed 1,000 tons of contaminated soil in that cleanup.