This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
Chancellor Pat Spakes is not a miracle worker, no matter how much University of Washington Tacoma boosters and downtown merchants might hope she was.
She couldn’t prevent the Legislature from shortchanging the UWT $20 million that would have built a faculty office building. Nor can she wish away the recession-era forces that are dogging retail prospects for other university-owned buildings.
A shortage of faculty offices coupled with the dim economic outlook for merchants has Spakes considering backtracking on the university’s commitment to fill Pacific Avenue storefronts with shops and restaurants.
Existing merchants are protesting the plan to put a classroom and possibly faculty offices on the ground floor of the university’s Russell T. Joy building, now under renovation. University officials say that trying to market the space to retailers is next to impossible in the current economic climate.
They are probably right. Down the street, the owners of Pacific Plaza say they have tried for three years to find a retail tenant; they too want to open up ground level space to office use.
But if Spakes can’t produce tenants out of thin air, neither she nor the university can let their decisions be guided only by self interest.