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June 03, 2015

Council votes to save Old City Hall

Business Examiner

Tacoma's Old City Hall will be saved crumbling into rubble.

Or, at least, that's what City Council members were banking on when they voted unanimously to authorize the purchase of the property for $4 million, plus closing costs. Funding will come from federal Urban Development Action Grant dollars.

Reuben McKnight, the city's historic preservation officer, said that enforcing building code will only go so far to protect the historic structure.

"They'll get to you to a point," McKnight said. "You can enforce issues as they arise, but what it doesn't do is it doesn't occupy the building, or restore the building, or give it to the state of productive occupancy or revenue. The issues can get cyclical, they can come up again and again and again."

The $4 million price tag is quite a bit more than an appraisal by Kidder Mathews published in March. It concluded that the building should sell for $1.6 million.

"There have been conversations about the cost of the project," said Mayor Marilyn Strickland. "I think the question I would ask is, what would the cost be of inaction? How many more winters will pass, how much further will the building deteriorate, how much longer can it stand empty? By getting control of this building we are controlling our destiny and really doing more to bolster what I think is an up and coming thriving district of entertainment."

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