The city of Ruston, which measures less than one-half square mile, arguably boasts an even grittier history, literally, than Tacoma.

Beginning in the late 1800s, businessman Denis Ryan established a lead-refining company and operated it on the north end of the Tacoma waterfront. The area served as a company town for its employees; it was a stark contrast from the neighborly feel Ruston exudes today.

William Rust, who was brought in to manage the facility, wound up buying the business, which would become known as Tacoma Smelting & Refining Company. When the city was established in 1906, it assumed the name of Ruston in honor of Rust. It was incorporated as a town in 1906, and reclassified as a city in 2012.

Rust eventually sold the company, which was renamed the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), and continued to operate it until it was shut down by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1985. A century of smelter activities resulted in the release of metals into the soil, air, bay, and groundwater, creating a Superfund site that took years to clean up.

ASARCO and the EPA developed a cleanup plan, and, in 2005, after filing for bankruptcy, ASARCO entered into an agreement with MC Construction Consultants to sell the site and another nearby ASARCO-owned parcel. MC Construction assigned its purchase rights to Point Ruston, LLC in order to develop Point Ruston: a billion-dollar, large-scale residential and mixed-use resort-style waterfront community that broke ground a decade ago.

This turn of events marked the beginning of a new chapter for the city of Ruston.

“Point Ruston and the town of Ruston (are) becoming quite a destination for not only Pierce County, but I think for the whole South Sound,” City of Ruston Councilmember Jim Hedrick said. “This is going to be a big deal down here once it gets all built up.”

The development, which straddles Ruston and Tacoma, continues today. And despite widely reported permitting issues that have slowed the project’s progress on the Ruston side of the site, Point Ruston is already a trendy hotspot.

On any given day, Point Ruston’s shops, children’s sprayground, movie theater, restaurants, bars, and condos are already swarming with activity. Future development on the Ruston side of the line includes the 4-star Silver Cloud Hotel and a public market.

According to Loren Cohen, managing director of Point Ruston, LLC, the Silver Cloud Hotel at Point Ruston will be the flagship location. Amenities will include a 12,000-square-foot space dedicated to weddings and events, a high-end restaurant serving hotel guests and the community, a rooftop pool, and a 6,000-square-foot spa area.

“This is really going to be the market-leading hotel in this South Sound market,” Cohen said. He noted that the hotel is slated to open in spring 2020.

Visitors and residents also will be able to enjoy a 30,000-square-foot public market, inspired by Vancouver’s Granville Island. An opening date has not yet been set, but once opened, it will feature 35 curated vendors, a grocer for daily needs, a food court offering a mix of grab-n-go and prepared foods, and a commercial-grade community kitchen.

“The overall goal for Point Ruston is to be a community where your daily needs are served,” Cohen said. “Where you’re proud to call home, if you live here. Where, if you’re a member of the community, you’re proud to bring your out-of-town visitors for lunch or dinner or a night out. From those perspectives, we’re so proud of what has been accomplished out here.”

The area’s transformation is also growing increasingly evident on the upland side of Ruston. For instance, Lovino Ristorante Italiano recently opened on North Pearl and North 51st, and is creating a buzz among Italian-food fans.

Nearby is Coles Bar & Grill. The historical building has been home to some of Ruston’s iconic locales, like The Idle Hour and Cole’s Oasis. After a devastating fire, the building was purchased by the current owner and has since been restored.

In addition, Ruston’s Town Council green-lighted in late 2008 the development of 36 single-family custom homes on Stack Hill, which is where the ASARCO smelter stack stood until its demolition in 1993.

There’s also Commencement Condominiums in Ruston, which are especially appealing among retirees.

“This is becoming a destination site with the (Point Defiance) park, with the condo facility, with the urban village, and just the fact that it’s in Northern Tacoma along the water,” said Hedrick. “With everybody leaving Seattle, this is going to be an attractive option — and we’re seeing that, and it’s happening fast.”

Sources: Puget Sound Regional Council; U.S. Census Bureau; City-Data.com