Tacoma-based architecture firm Merritt Arch has been selected to partner in the integration of the city's new Amtrak station to the Freighthouse Square shopping complex.

Merritt will work with stakeholders — City of Tacoma, Freighthouse Square, WSDOT, Amtrak and the community — to complete space analysis, conceptual feasibility analysis, siting of live-work units, preservation of retail and façade enhancement.

Robert Thoms, City Council member for Tacoma's District 2, pushed for better coordination between the Washington State Department of Transportation after a meeting last month. Thoms and State Rep. Jake Fey, D-27th District, met with WSDOT leaders last week to emphasize the need for more local input on the project.

“Many were at first excited by the news that the State decided to relocate Tacoma’s passenger rail station at Freighthouse Square,” said Thoms. “However, after a December meeting to share initial design ideas, it was clear that we needed more of a Tacoma voice and vision for this project.”

That Tacoma voice now comes in the form of Merritt, which was selected last Friday after the City decided to forgo a competitive selection process.

“We had a very short window of opportunity,” said City of Tacoma urban planner Ian Munce. “Basically, we're looking at a $18,000 project  … The idea came up that, could we generate enough resources to hire a local architect? I contacted the state and they were agreeable to putting up part of the money, and (Tacoma Community and Economic Development Director) Ricardo Noguera said that he would put up part of the money. But we didn't have a lot of time, so we just made the decision.”

City purchasing procedure, according to Munce, contains a provision that allows officials to do so if there isn't time to conduct a formal 60-day solicitation process.

Several involved in the project lauded the selection of a local architect.

“This news is a tremendous victory for the Dome District and Tacoma. Our voices were heard. Council Member Thoms and the City engaged our state partners to ensure this station meets our community’s needs. After all, we will be the ones using and living with the Amtrak station every day,” said Dome District Association President Janice McNeal. 

Merritt will now participate in upcoming community forums regarding the design and function of the station.The first meeting to gather further public review and engagement with WSDOT is on Thursday, Jan. 23; a follow-up design report is due in March.