May 3, 2022

Tacoma’s urban resurgence

Urban resurgence is in the air, and downtown Tacoma is a great example.

Cranes dot the skyline and thousands of apartment units are on the rise. New businesses have staked their space and future tenants are preparing to move in. And according to CoStar, the largest commercial real estate information and analytics provider, sales volumes in downtown Tacoma reached $123 million over the last 12 months. That’s nearly three times higher than the city’s five-year average of $42.3 million.

Here are some signs that things downtown are looking up:

  • 909 A Street renovated and ready. The former home of Russell Investments and State Farm has been tricked out and is available for lease for companies looking for Class A space in the South Sound. Check it out here.
  • Sold sign at 920 Fawcett. Pierce County purchased the former Davies Pearson law office building. Staff from the Prosecutor’s Office will move in by late summer or early fall.
  • Two huge parcels hit the market. A chunk of downtown long used for parking just became available for development. The Tacoma Super Block between South 13th and 14th Streets and a second site at 12th and A add up to more than 2.6 acres of developable property (mountain and water views included). Interest is already percolating. Read more about it here.
  • Residential developer crosses bridge. Gig Harbor-based Harbor Custom Development Inc. plans to relocate its headquarters to 1201 Pacific (the former Wells Fargo Plaza).
  • Big tower gets major tenant. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. signed a 15,000-square-foot lease for office space at 1201 Pacific.
  • Vacancy rates dip. Drew Frame, senior vice president for Kidder Mathews, expects office vacancy rates to drop into the single digits this year.
  • Eats and live music to liven up long-vacant space at 950 Broadway. Kelly’s Olympian, a beloved Portland institution, will open its second location on the ground floor of the Rhodes Center. The owner of Kelly’s purchased the building from the state of Washington in December 2020 for $19.5 million.
  • Historic downtown office buildings go residential. The 18-story Washington Building at 1019 Pacific Ave. will have 160 apartments. At nearby 1119 Pacific, Spokane-based InterUrban Development plans to convert the former Key Tower into 60 residential units.
  • If you build it, they will come. New multifamily construction and conversions will bring hundreds of people into the central business district in the next two years.

Making more space

Urbanist Richard Florida told us during last year’s EDB Annual Meeting that there’s no going back to the old ways of living and working. With the “great resignation” during the pandemic, many quit jobs to start their own businesses or freelance. Those who didn’t are working remotely or have hybrid schedules. People want to work closer to where they live, and they’re more interested in community connections than brick and mortar.

That said, co-working space is more important (and more in demand) than ever. Tacoma is meeting the call. Take a gander at the options offered downtown:

  • The Pioneer Collective in the Courthouse Square building features 12,000 square feet of shared workspace, meetings rooms and event spaces.
  • Spaceworks Tacoma. This joint initiative between City of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce has evolved into a business incubator and anchor for the creative class in downtown Tacoma and beyond. Spaceworks’ 1120 Downtown (at 1120 Pacific Ave.) offers studio, office and event space for artists and entrepreneurs.
  • Surge Tacoma. The flagship location in the Brewery District is the longest running co-working space in the city. (Surge South Tacoma is their second location.)
  • TractionSpace near 7th and Market, offers flexible private and team offices, as well as a podcast studio and video studio.
  • Union Club is a mixed-use space for Tacoma’s growing artistic and entrepreneurial community that combines studios, co-working and office space, galleries and an event hall.
  • WorkSphere was full within 8 months of opening its shared office space near 11th and Pacific in September 2020. The company recently announced that it will triple its number of private offices to meet demand.

Just keeps getting better

All this downtown activity points to what we already know. Tacoma-Pierce County is a great place to live, work and play, and it’s getting better all the time. And all the great amenities the region has to offer come with a lower price tag (and fewer hassles) than big cities. Don’t just take our word for it. Tacoma is one of the most affordable cities on the West Coast, according to Livabilty.


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