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Tacoma, Washington's Old Brewery District: The New Subar...

Tacoma, Washington's Old Brewery District: The New Subarea Plan and Environmental Impact Statement

Tacoma is the third largest city in Washington; built on a foundation of hard working railroad workers, longshoremen, and sawmill workers. The city has a long history known for its blue-color, rough and gritty image. What does a city like Tacoma prefer after a day of hard work is done? Beer, of course. Tacoma boasts

Downtown Tacoma, Washington (South) Sub-Area PlanTacoma is the third largest city in Washington; built on a foundation of hard working railroad workers, longshoremen, and sawmill workers. The city has a long history known for its blue-color, rough and gritty image. What does a city like Tacoma prefer after a day of hard work is done? Beer, of course. Tacoma boasts several local breweries spread throughout the city. But in the days when port workers would have to walk a few miles up the hill to the residential neighborhoods, they would have to pass a little section where local pubs flourished into a vibrant brewery district.

Today, that district is a decaying shell of the history it once held. As sprawl and automobile travel moved people out from the downtown core, the breweries suffered. Much of the district still houses the old machinery, which is actually an added cost rather than historical preservation.  It’s simply more expensive to develop in this area and dispose or repurpose the equipment.

The Subarea Plan and Environmental Impact Statement is being undertaken by the City of Tacoma, under a sub-contract with the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). PSRC won a $5 million federal sustainable communities grant to plan for dense urban communities around mass transit. Tacoma received $500,000 of that for south downtown subarea plan; which includes the old brewery district, the nexus for transportation including the streetcar, commuter trains, and buses.

Tacoma, Washington's Brewer District Development Concept StudyThe resulting Subarea Plan and Environmental Impact Statement will:

  • Identify and prioritize necessary infrastructure improvements (e.g. water, sewer, storm water, power, telecommunications);
  • Plan for parks, trails, and open space;
  • Prioritize transportation investments including light rail, parking, pedestrian and bike improvements.

Rather than planners waiting for site-specific development proposals to come in, the city will conduct an innovative area-wide long-range plan for a more contemporary brewery district. By completing the pre-development environmental review, the city will identify how to address environmental, sustainability, and community issues.  This will help reduce uncertainties, risks, and costs for future projects. The city estimates developer savings of about $5.8 million.

Environmental Impact Statements seem to be the latest trend for cities in Washington, including Puyallup’s own downtown revitalization. What sort of proactive planning has your city implemented to incentivize redevelopment?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Kennith George grew up in the Greater Seattle, Washington area and holds a B.A. in Urban Studies from the University of Washington. His interest began in architecture, but he quickly found his passion in urban planning and policy. He views much of t...

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