Tacoma’s historic Old City Hall may finally get the revitalization the city has been hoping for since it purchased the site in 2015.
After reviewing proposals it received in response to a request earlier this year, the City of Tacoma selected Surge Tacoma’s plan to turn the 125-year-old Italianate-style building into a thriving mixed-use space.
“The time is right,” Surge Tacoma’s co-founder Eli Moreno told South Sound Business. “We have been long-term residents of Tacoma. We have seen the difficulties that this project has encountered over the years. And we believe that given our experience with our other projects, what we’re proposing will be well received in the community and will help preserve this iconic building.”
Surge’s project proposes installing a casual restaurant in the basement, a bar in the old jail along Pacific Avenue, two restaurants on the roof, and an event space in the clock tower.
The plan also includes approximately 20,000 square feet of retail space and 20,000 square feet of upscale, industrial-style office and coworking space with reclaimed wood floors, exposed brick, hanging plants, and natural lighting.
Forty “micro” apartments, more than half of which will be affordable units, will be built on the fifth floor.
Surge’s initial proposal included an offer to purchase the building for $2 million in cash plus $2 million in “public benefits,” which include free public use of certain spaces in the building. Moreno estimates the project will cost between $13 and $15 million, including the purchase price.
Surge Tacoma is no stranger to reclaiming historic spaces. The company turned Tacoma’s 130-year-old Union Club into a renovated coworking office building, complete with artist studios and event space.
“We’ve been doing this for about 30 years now. Every time we buy a property, especially an older property, we believe in giving these buildings a second chance,” Moreno said. “Instead of demolishing old structures, which are very difficult to replicate anymore given some of the detail in these buildings, we believe in giving those properties a second chance. It keeps the soul of the city intact.”
Two organizations, Startup253 and the Tacoma Historical Society, are already signed on to be tenants of Old City Hall. Moreno said other businesses are interested as well.
“We will be solidifying some of those contracts in the near future,” he said.
Purchase and sale negotiations between Surge and the City of Tacoma are under way. According to Moreno, a deal is expected to be finalized early next year.
The Old City Hall project team includes Harlow & Falk, NBS Financial, Pacific Engineering, Easyway Contractors, CBRE, and Artifacts Consulting.