The architect and developers of The Proctor, a multiuse project planned for the heart of the Proctor district, got an earful — most of it hostile — from a standing-room-only crowd of area residents at Monday night’s North End Neighborhood Council meeting.
A number of people said Proctor won’t be able to handle the traffic and increased demand for parking spaces. Others said the scale of the building was too large for the neighborhood.
One resident worried about crime and graffiti that a “transient population” of apartment renters and their visitors could bring into the neighborhood. Another wondered if the fire department had signed off on the project – if there were ladder trucks that could serve a six-story building.
In the end, though, the objections don’t have the power to stop the development, said two Tacoma city planners who responded to many of the questions. So far each part of the project presented by the architects and developers has been well within the planning code requirements, and sometimes beyond.
An audience member asked: “As long as the dots are connected, is this a done deal?”
The planners – and City Councilman Ryan Mello, who was leaning against the wall – all nodded.
More than 100 people jammed into the meeting, held in a University of Puget Sound lecture hall. The NENC, accustomed to a couple dozen people showing up at most meetings, moved the group to a slightly larger room. Still people sat on the stairs, stood and spilled out the door.
BCRA architect Randy Gould, who said he’s been a resident of the Proctor area for 20 years, gave the scheduled presentation on the development. “We live here, we’d better get this right,” he said.
The development, which will be located at North 28th and Proctor streets, is planned to include 147 apartments (two-bedrooms, one-bedrooms and studios) street-level retail and underground parking.
A number of people in the crowd and murmured their displeasure as Gould displayed an architect’s rendering of The Proctor as finished. “It’s worse than I thought,” a woman said.
Gould said “it’s a fairly large building, so we want to reduce the mass as much as we can.” To accomplish that, the design incorporates terraces and material and color changes, he said.
The architect summarized the project’s goals as he showed a slide with a list:
- Improve the existing land use of the project site.
- Provide much needed housing options in Proctor.
- Attract residents who appreciate the Proctor way of life.
- Supply more potential customers to local businesses.
- Grow the existing roster of small businesses.
- Fulfill City of Tacoma land use and economic development goals.
Two members of the development group, both longtime Proctor residents, were in the audience: Bill Evans, owner of Proctor’s Northwest Shop and former city councilman; and Erling Kuester, real estate broker, and partner in the Blue Mouse Theater.
Brian Boudet, Tacoma Planning Division manager, was at the meeting but not scheduled to speak as part of the presentation. NENC chair Kyle Price asked if he’d come up after Gould’s presentation and discuss the project from the city’s side.
“It’s great to see how much people care about Proctor. It’s a beautiful thing,” Boudett said. And he acknowleged, “change is difficult. This is a big project.”
He said, this type of high-density mixed-use development in urban areas is something the city has been moving toward since the 1990s. In 2009, he said, changes were built into the planning ordinances to smooth the way for projects such as this. One change was a “height bonus,” allowing building plans to grow from 45 to 65 feet if they meet other conditions.
The Proctor is meeting those conditions, he said.
Fliers urging attendance at the meeting had been posted all over the Proctor business district and left on porches. The all-caps heading read PRESERVE PROCTOR.
Some people did speak in favor of the project. Most speakers pro or con didn’t give names and often called out quick comments or questions. Here’s a recap of some of the comments from audience members:
“I also support this project. To have single-family homes is good, but it doesn’t help the businesses in the area as much as high density housing.”
“I’m very concerned about where the staff of Mason Middle School is going to park.”
“It’s just too much on a short piece of property.”
“Proctor is not an urban area. There are not enough businesses within walking distance.”
“No one who pays these prices (for rent) will have the disposable income to buy $150 shoes at Jasminka.”
“It won’t be a transient population. It will be young professionals. It will be older folks trying to get out of the maintenance of their homes.” (From a supporter)
“This is our future. We need this for our property values. Proctor is the best business district.” (From a longtime real estate appraiser)
“A six-story building next to a school … is a recipe for disaster.”
“I’ve had a shop in Proctor for 31 years. There’s no way the parking is going to work.”
“It would make a difference to me if at least some of the units would be purchasable.”
“I think this is an amazing opportunity for Proctor. I’m so glad that people who absolutely love this district are doing this project. To hear all this negativity is really sad.”
“Adding these units, it’s going to be impossible to walk on the sidewalk. Have you walked to the farmers market?”
Philip Kao, Tacoma land use planner, said the project’s traffic engineers have submitted a traffic study. The city is reviewing that now to see if any changes will be requested.
“The issues you guys are bringing up are valid. We will look at your concerns,” he said.
“They are meeting the minimum requirements,” he added. “They are providing enough parking for our code requirements, or providing additional parking.
Gould responded to questions about whether The Proctor’s size could be reduced. He said that was something the developers would have to decide, but that the current ratio of living spaces to parking garage is at “the sweet spot for making projects financially viable. If you start reducing the height it becomes less financially viable.”