historic preservation

ongoing projects 

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Current Projects

Old City Hall Request For Interest

On September 8, the City of Tacoma issued a Request for Interest (RFI) for the adaptive reuse of Old City Hall in downtown Tacoma. Developers are invited to express their interest in purchasing, leasing/purchasing, or master leasing the building located at 625 S. Commerce St. for the purpose of converting it into a high quality development that contributes to the vitality of the Old City Hall Historic District.

For additional information, follow the links below:
RFI Invitation
Request for Interest document 

West Slope Neighborhood Conservation District

Residents and property owners in the West Slope Area have requested consideration by the City for the establishment of a conservation district overlay. Landmarks and Local Historic Special Review and Conservation Districts are administered by Tacoma Municipal Code 13.07 and are managed as overlay zoning districts. 

Click here for more information.

Completed projects

Historic Property Maintenance Code

The City of Tacoma is currently developing a new ordinance, titled “Preventing Neglect of Historic Properties,” which is proposed to be added to Title 8 of the Tacoma Municipal Code as a new chapter. The proposed ordinance is designed to prevent “demolition by neglect” of historic properties within Tacoma by defining neglect as a Public Nuisance.

“Demolition by neglect” is defined as the process whereby a property owner neglects a historic building until the only course of action feasible to abate the resulting hazards to public health and safety is to demolish the building.

This is a pilot project that is designed to provide the City additional enforcement tools to prevent ongoing neglect of Tacoma’s most iconic historic buildings, as well as create the means and authority to intervene before buildings become “dangerous” as defined in the Minimum Buildings and Structures Code. By the time this occurs, the neglected condition has often continued for many years, increasing the costs of abatement and the likelihood for the need to demolish the building.

This code amendment is a component of a broader set of initiatives that are designed to improve the protection of historic buildings in Tacoma, including updates to the Minimum Buildings and Structures Code (TMC 2.01) such as  additional flexibility for exemptions of code requirements for derelict historic buildings being brought into compliance, in addition to flexibility in the code allowing for repair of “dangerous” buildings, as well as numerous administrative and procedural improvements.

The proposed ordinance will:

• Add “neglect of a historic property” to the list of Public Nuisances enforced by the City.
• Apply to properties listed on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places, the National Register of Historic Places, and historically contributing properties within Historic Special Review Overlay Districts and National Register Historic Districts (but will not apply to single family residential structures within historic districts)
• Use a set of maintenance standards similar to those found in the International Property Maintenance Code and Minimum Buildings and Structures Code
• Use the Notice of Violation, Civil Penalties and Abatement procedures already contained in the Public Nuisance Code.
• Add additional penalties designed to discourage neglect, such as temporary limits on future development potential if a building must be demolished as a result of neglect.
• Provide authority for the City to enter, as provided by law, and repair conditions that threaten the integrity of a historic building.
• Exist in concert with the authorities already contained in the Minimum Buildings and Structures Code.

Lastly, the City will establish a funding source to create an “emergency preservation fund” to provide resources for proactive abatement of neglected historic properties.

June 3 Neighborhoods and Housing Committee
June 12 Landmarks Preservation Commission
June 18 Historic Tacoma
June 20 Building Board of Appeals
June 26 Landmarks Preservation Commission
July 9 Historic Tacoma
July 15 North Slope and Wedge Historic Districts
July 16 Cross District Association
Aug 8 Historic Property Owners
August 14 Landmarks Preservation Commission
Aug 19 Neighborhoods and Housing Committee
Sept 10 City Council Study Session
Sept 10 City Council first reading
Sept 17 City Council final reading

View the draft code here.

Design Guidelines Update - Wedge Neighborhood and North Slope Historic Districts

The Landmarks Preservation Commission updates its bylaws and rules once annually, including design guidelines and administrative procedures.  This update is designed to make the guidelines more user friendly and internally consistent.

View the  guidelines here.

Murray Morgan Bridge Rehabilitation

The City is in the process of rehabilitating the Murray Morgan Bridge.  The project is being conducted in two phases.  Phase One involves repairs to the bridge sections over the waterway, including the lift span, and repairs to the approach structures. These repairs will eventually allow the City to return vehicle traffic to the bridge without load restrictions. Phase Two consists of underground seismic upgrades, which is currently not funded.

Click here for more information.

Click here for information on the history of the bridge.

Preservation Plan

A new Historic Preservation Element of the Comprehensive Plan was adopted on June 14, 2011 by City Council Ordinance 27996.

Click here for more information.

Old Town Neighborhood Historic District 

Status:  Tabled

On September 15, 2009, residents of the “Old Town” Neighborhood submitted a written request for consideration of the neighborhood as a historic special review district overlay zone.  On June 22, 2011, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to table the nomination due to insufficient property owner support.

Click here for more information.

Wedge Neighborhood Historic and Conservation Districts

Status:  Complete

The Wedge Neighborhood Historic District was established on May 24, 2011 by City Council Ordinance #27981, in response to a request submitted in 2008 by neighborhood residents.  

Click here for more information.

Spanish Steps Rehabilitation Project

Status:  Complete

The Spanish Steps, in association with the adjacent Elks Building, is one of four pivotal structures defining the boundaries of the Old City Hall Historic District. The Steps, constructed concurrently in 1915 with the Elks Temple in the Beaux Arts manner, are modeled after the Scalinata di Spagna in Rome, and express the character of the Classical buildings clustered at the north end of downtown.

Click here for more information.

Questions or Suggestions?

Email landmarks@cityoftacoma.org.