Will Albers Mill on Foss Waterway be redeveloped or won’t it—and if it is redeveloped, what will it become?

These questions are expected to finally be answered by April, when a 90-day extension runs out for a proposal that would turn the building into some form of mixed-use project. The extension was granted last month to allow proponents to revise their plans.

Tacoma business leaders and philanthropists Jane and George Russell submitted the original five-page proposal last fall calling for the Mill to house administrative offices of the planned International Glass Museum (IGM), an education-learning center, a video-production studio, a restaurant, artist-in-residence accommodations and a retail outlet related to IGM.

Those goals have gone through some modification in the interim.

“They want to offer some possible new uses for the building,” says Sue Dowie, a City planner working with the Foss Waterway Development Authority. “They wanted to take another look at it.”

Don Hines, assistant director of Tacoma’s Economic Development Department, is optimistic that the project will become a solid anchor for significant high-quality redevelopment along Foss Waterway, which was the original Port of Tacoma. Hines notes that a director has been hired for the IGM — Josi Callan, former director of the San Jose Museum of Art — which he says would become the anchor tenant on the waterway and that the City now has a viable game plan for the Albers project.

“We’re on the right track,” he says. “The Russells want to do it right; they want to do it now; and they want to do it at the same time as the development of the glass museum.”

Plans call for the IGM to be built immediately north of the mill. The museum will be a $74.6 million, 75,000-square-foot facility on the Thea Foss. The museum is expected to open in 2002.

The IGM, designed by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, will include the Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a link from the museum on the waterway over Interstate 705 to the Washington State History Museum.

The five-story Mill was built in 1904 as the Albers Brothers Milling Co., one of several mills that once lined the waterway. There, grains brought by train from eastern Washington were processed. The mills turned the grain into cereals and other products that were loaded aboard sailing vessels for shipment to destinations such as San Francisco for commercial distribution. The Albers Mill is the only survivor among the mills that once lined the waterway.

Hines says the Russells’ commitment to restoring the Mill has spurred the interest of other potential developers.

“The Russells are out there,” he says. “They’ve taken that step, and they’ve made that commitment.”

By Richard Sypher, Business Examiner staff