In recent years, the South Sound has seen a resurgence of sorts in the quantity of new development projects, specifically as many Seattle- and Eastside-based businesses begin migrating away from congested areas in hopes of finding a more favorable real estate market and burgeoning employment pool.
In fact, the construction industry accounts for nearly 7 percent of Pierce County’s jobs with more than $1.2 billion paid for construction in the county, according to Loren Cohen, managing director at MC Construction.
Industries tied to these new developments run the gamut from restauranteurs to technology firms, but according to Devin Page, president of Colvos Construction, there are many trends he and his employees are seeing in the types of jobs they are being contracted for.
“From our position as a general contractor, we’re experiencing increased demand to build multi-level self-storage, multi-family, and — most excitingly for Tacoma— adaptive re-use of underutilized masonry and industrial buildings,” Page said.
The surge in self-storage construction, Page said, correlates directly to job growth with area unemployment sitting at just 4 percent, the lowest in 18 years, allowing residents to aquire more household goods. Moreover, the rise of multi-family dwellings where square footage can be limited, also helps create a need for additional storage space.
While many of these multi-family dwellings in recent years have been larger — 150 residential units or more — Page said he is seeing a switch in market popularity favoring smaller infill and adaptive reuse properties.
“Within the last 12 to 18 months, these projects have suddenly been challenged to acquire commercial lending,” Page said. “We predict that there will be more entitled properties coming online than in recent years, given that some undercapitalized first-time developers will be unable to find the equity needed to fund construction.”
Footprint and size aren’t the only factors at play with these types of developments: many residential and commercial tenants prefer the charm that comes with older buildings.
In addition to these trends, many other big projects are in the works across the area. For examples, Absher Construction Co. is working on the 170-unit Chambers Bay Resort at Chambers Bay Golf Course, the $220 million Emerald Queen Casino project, and the massive 23-story Tacoma Convention Center Hotel in downtown Tacoma.
Cohen said his company has moved in more than 800 families to the new units at the Point Ruston development and construction is still going on with plans to complete the $58 million, 194-room Silver Cloud Hotel sometime this year.
Other projects to watch:
The Legacy in Motion Project
A 6.5-acre swath of Puyallup farm land soon will be home to a campus for Step By Step, an organization which strives to help vulnerable women and children in the community. Formerly home to the Van Lierop Bulb Farm for close to 80 years, the existing structures include a 1900s-era farm house, a 18,000-square-foot retail building and multiple barns. The largest structure is currently being renovated to allow for a job-training program and opportunities for the women the organization serves. The first phase of construction is estimated to conclude this summer. Future phases are still in the fundraising stages.
Thurston County Readiness Center
In October, the Washington National Guard broke ground on its new readiness center on Kimmie Street Southwest in Tumwater to replace aging armories in Olympia and Puyallup. The $35 million, 78,000-square-foot LEED Silver facility will be used for training Washington guardsmen from multiple units. The project, led by Pease Construction of Lakewood, will include two small vehicle storage buildings; classrooms; simulators; and a 6,000-square-foot gym, which will double as an assembly hall for the soldiers. Construction is expected to conclude by early 2021.
Mount Bay Apartments and Trax
One of the saving graces the Freighthouse Square building in Tacoma has been waiting for is finally coming to fruition in the form of commuter-friendly apartments. The first is the seven-story Mount Bay Apartments located on East 26th Street between C and D streets, designed by Erickson McGovern Architects. The 254,000-square-foot, $45 million building will include 229 residential units with a fitness center, pool, hot tub spa, dog run, garden terrace, sky lounge, barbecue area, and more. Construction is expected to begin this spring. The second will be a seven-story, 115-unit structure developed on land that was formerly owned by Pierce Transit directly across from Freighthouse Square. Construction has not yet begun, however it is rumored that the building could open by summer 2020. According to the City of Tacoma, parking will be limited and each resident will receive an ORCA transit card to encourage residents to bike or take transit.
Green Harbor Communities is planning a new development near Tacoma’s Blueberry Park. The 22-acre property dubbed “The Preserve” will target the least environmentally sensitive part of the property to build between 50 to 70 homes, ranging from 950 to 1,250 square feet. The community broke ground in early December and pre-leasing has already begun.