This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
The leading economic indicators are painting a slowly improving picture nationally. And finally there’s some bright news at the local level as well: A promising downtown project is on pace to be even bigger than originally planned.
That’s an especially welcome development in light of the local projects that have either been delayed or gone belly-up since the recession hit, including the Jackson Building on South 25th Street and Yakima Avenue, the Walker Condominiums on Sixth Avenue, the Copperline condo building at Point Ruston and a Prium Companies office-condominium development on Thea Foss Waterway.
The Tacoma Elks project looks to break that chain of glum news.
Excitement greeted the in July 2009 announcement that the development team behind renovation of the Albers Mill on Thea Foss Waterway had sealed a deal with McMenamins, the respected Portland-based hotel/brew pub chain. Developers Grace Pleasants and Rick Moses would renovate the historic Tacoma Elks Temple for McMenamins and build a grocery, apartment complex and city-owned parking garage on the adjacent vacant lot.
McMenamins’ reputation and the developers’ solid track record gave rise to cautious optimism that, despite the recession, this was a project that might actually happen – creating an exciting downtown development while saving a Tacoma icon, to boot. It sounded almost too good to be true.
And now it sounds even better.
What was planned as a $42 million project has mushroomed into one expected to cost about $58 million. Instead of building 40 hotel rooms in an Elks Temple ballroom, plans now are to build about 100 rooms in the adjacent mixed-use structure. That will allow McMenamins to use that ballroom space for events like weddings and shows – and put guests up at a bigger hotel next door.
The hoped-for grocery is still up in the air, with Whole Foods rumored to be considering the site. And all the financing hasn’t been lined up yet. But given the caliber of the parties involved with this project, expectations are high that it will come to pass – and to hell with the recession.