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One Key To Tacoma's Future: Office Space

"downtown" by Scott Hingst is licensed under CC by 2.0.
Tacoma leaders say the city needs more office space to allow for economic growth.

Ricardo Noguera isn't too proud to say that Tacoma is Seattle's "little brother." As Tacoma's economic development director, he's happy to capitalize on Seattle's booming economy.

But he has an obstacle: a lack of office space. 

Noguera said housing development is quickening in Tacoma, driven in part by demand from Seattleites seeking a lower cost of living and a different pace of life. More than 1,500 housing units are set for completion this year, he said.

But if Tacoma is to fully take advantage of Seattle's fortune, he said, it needs office buildings where tech start-ups could take root or established companies could open satellite locations. 

"My biggest challenge is in drawing more office development downtown," Noguera said.

He said it's been 15 years since the city saw a new office building go up. 

Tacoma has the same construction costs as Seattle and Bellevue. But Tacoma doesn't have as much demand, which means building owners can't charge as much in rent. And available space is limited.  

Tacoma leaders are counting on a bill in the state Legislature that would allow medium-sized cities to offer tax incentives to office developers and reduce the cost of building there. The legislation would affect not just Tacoma, but also cities like Spokane, Everett, Vancouver, and Yakima. 

Noguera said 300,000 to 500,000 square feet office space in downtown Tacoma "would set our market straight for the next 10 years."

"It doesn't have to be a 30-story  building," he said. "There are some parking lots that can be built on. There are some underutilized properties." 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.