The Tacoma City Council gave its OK on Tuesday to a proposal for a hotel/condominium complex adjoining the Greater Tacoma Convention Center, paving the way for Chinese investors to potentially spend millions building downtown.
That is, if the City's Community and Economic Development Department can agree on a contract with Yareton Investment & Management WA LLC, a Seattle development firm with strong ties to China. Yareton is the same developer working on the Artemis Hotel in Des Moines, which broke ground three years ago but was stalled due to processing by the U.S. State Department of an application for EB-5 foreign investor funding.
Yareton's proposal was selected from a field of five that answered a request for interest issued by the City in January. Notably, Yareton's proposal didn't ask for a taxpayer subsidy, unlike three others submitted in reply to the RFI. Instead, roughly half of the cost of the project could come from the aforementioned EB-5 program, which grants immigrant funders U.S. residency for their investments.
Current plans for the development, per Yareton's proposal, call for a two-tower complex built on the roughly two-care plot of city owned land. A hotel tower would rise up to 34 floors, with condominiums on top, and a residential tower next to it would have up to 18 floors. The hotel — planned as a 300-key, four-star lodging facility — would be the tallest building in Tacoma if built to the full 34 stories.
The entire project would also include 150 to 220 condominium residences, 20,000 to 50,000 square feet of street level retail and a minimum of 400 parking stalls.
Members of the Council expressed excitement and pride at the proposal during Tuesday's meeting.
“What I feel very prideful about for Tacoma and what this investment means,” said City Councilman Robert Thoms, “is it means that we've proven ourselves to be a good partner … We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for many different programs that we have — be it the sister program, be it (others). I know the mayor specifically took a trip to China in 2010. These are built on relationships and trust and knowing that there's going to be a willing partner on the other side.”
“We're still going to have a lot of long-term conversations about this,” added City Councilman Anders Ibsen, “but I for one am thrilled to see this move forward … The fact that this is bereft of any public subsidies of any kind — no gimmicks, no giveaways, no tax breaks — this is just Tacoma selling itself. It's really something that gives a statement of our core trajectory as a city.”
Elly Walkowiak of the CEDD, who gave a brief synopsis of the project at the meeting, said that the City Council could vote on the completed contract in June. Construction could begin in about a year, with the hotel opening in the summer of 2017 and the residential tower in 2018.