Center for Preservation and Adaptive Reuse

November 7, 2018

Livable City Year Tacoma Report Published

 

Working Toward Equity and Inclusion through Historic District Development
Livable City Year, 2018
Tacoma, Washington

The University of Washington’s Livable City Year (LCY) initiative enables local governments to engage UW faculty and students for one academic year to work on city-defined projects that promote local sustainability and livability goals. The program engages hundreds of students each year in high-priority projects, creating momentum on real-world challenges while enabling the students to serve and learn from communities. Partner cities benefit directly from bold and applied ideas that propel fresh thinking, improve livability for residents and invigorate city staff. Focus areas include environmental sustainability; economic viability; population health; and social equity, inclusion, and access. The program’s 2017–2018 partner is the City of Tacoma; this follows a partnership with the City of Auburn in 2016–2017.

Since undertaking a Historic Preservation Program in the 1970s, Tacoma has established an impressive eight historic districts and added more than 160 individual properties to its Register of Historic Places. Two of Tacoma’s historic districts occur in its downtown core and six border mostly contiguous residential neighborhoods; all occur in the northern half of the city and trace to Tacoma’s unique history and origins as an important nexus for rail, shipping, and timber. Those who originally built these industries helped shape the modern city; and their legacy lives on to the extent that we acknowledge their contributions and preserve the remaining structures that tell of their time. Despite efforts in historic preservation, the image of Tacoma captured by its historic districts offers an incomplete picture, leaving out all the neighborhoods of East Tacoma and South Tacoma. There is ample room and reason to expand Tacoma’s Historic Preservation Program to include the stories and people of these other major districts.

Context
Over the course of the Winter and Spring Academic Quarters of 2018, our team, comprised of architecture and urban planning undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Washington (UW), identified and researched three Tacoma neighborhoods for potential, future designation as historic districts: McKinley Hill, South Tacoma, and the Lincoln District. Each of these areas possesses a rich social history; a unique, modern, community identity; and cohesive architectural characteristics, very worthy of preservation. During the research phase, we met with preservation experts and community leaders to identify significant, historical people, places, and events of each neighborhood. Our learning from these encounters inform the development of this final report. To narrow the focus of our work, and to ensure a high-quality, complete set of district nomination packages, we selected McKinley Hill and South Tacoma for further investigation. We participated in walking tours, led by an independent company, Pretty Gritty Tours, of the McKinley Hill and South Tacoma neighborhoods. Additionally, we held public meetings to generate local awareness of our project and to glean feedback from community members.

The Client
The City of Tacoma understands the landmark preservation process as a lengthy, labor-intensive, grassroots effort. Thus, to support the City’s efforts, this Livable City Year (LCY) project provides much of the necessary legwork, including hundreds of hours of work by students, UW faculty, City staff, and community partners. The intent is to offer a boost for the City to broaden the reach of its Historic Preservation Program, to bridge the equity gap for Tacoma’s underrepresented neighborhoods, predominantly located in East Tacoma and South Tacoma. This project supports neighborhood project leaders in focusing their efforts on more comprehensive project elements, and it aims to reduce the time-intensive, but highly necessary, fieldwork required to successfully create new historic districts.

Methodology
Over the course of the Winter and Spring Academic Quarters of 2018, our team, comprised of architecture and urban planning undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Washington (UW), identified and researched three Tacoma neighborhoods for potential, future designation as historic districts: McKinley Hill, South Tacoma, and the Lincoln District. Each of these areas possesses a rich social history; a unique, modern, community identity; and cohesive architectural characteristics, very worthy of preservation. During the research phase, we met with preservation experts and community leaders to identify significant, historical people, places, and events of each neighborhood. Our learning from these encounters inform the development of this final report. To narrow the focus of our work, and to ensure a high-quality, complete set of district nomination packages, we selected McKinley Hill and South Tacoma for further investigation. We participated in walking tours, led by an independent company, Pretty Gritty Tours, of the McKinley Hill and South Tacoma neighborhoods. Additionally, the class held public meetings to generate local awareness of our project and to glean feedback from community members.

Findings
The students surveyed and inventoried more than 700 properties throughout the McKinley Hill and South Tacoma districts. We found more than 60% of the structures surveyed to retain their physical integrity; this links them to their original appearances and means they qualify for National Register nomination right now. With restoration work, many additional sites could become eligible in the future. Our final report includes narrative histories that represent the McKinley Hill and South Tacoma districts, and a complete inventory of each property, as required for National Register nominations. We are confident that after review of local and Washington State agencies both McKinley Hill and South Tacoma will join Tacoma’s eight other registered historic districts. This report illustrates the findings we produced over six months of work in Tacoma.

Read full report here.