TACOMA, WA-Only a decade ago, Thea Foss Waterway was a derelict stretch of Tacoma–a toxic dead zone thick with wastes from years of heavy industry. But in 1994, with $2 million in Federal Superfund support, the state’s Dept. of Ecology began to remove contaminated soils. Two years later, the city took a major risk. Betting it could attract new development and businesses to resurrect the decayed area, it established the Foss Waterway Development Authority and purchased numerous parcels of land along the waterway for $7 million.

The property purchased by the city included 17 parcels stretching 1.6 miles along the waterfront. Another 12 parcels is held in trust by the Metropolitan Park District. Now five years into its plan, major developments are indeed are rising up and transforming the neighborhood.

The Waterway’s $63-million Museum of Glass is already mid-way through construction, its’ opening set for July of next year. The museum will boast the works of internationally renown artists, including such as Barnaby Evans, and an $11-million Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a 500-ft. pedestrian span between the waterway and Union Station. Don Meyer, executive director of the Foss Waterway Development Authority (a non-profit organization), believes that with the opening of the museum “we will see a massing of development” along the waterway. Another art-related project, the new Tacoma Art Museum, has broken ground.

Dennis Johnson, director of the Media Center for Tacoma and Pierce County tells GlobeSt, “These public projects are priming the pumps here for private development.” Johnson expects to see more and more developers being drawn to the area as the revitalization gains momentum.

Three of the city’s parcels were sold earlier this year to a consortium of local, private developers, known as Team Tacoma. The group includes members of Carino Homes, Rushforth Construction and local real estate broker Eric Cederstrand.

Having won contracts with the city, Team Tacoma paid $2.2 million for the property. There it has begun construction of a $35.5-million mixed-use project dubbed Thea’s Landing. When complete, sometime next year, the development will contain 189 mid- to upper-scale apartments, 45 two-story condominiums. It will also hold approximately 22,000 sf of retail and office space.

The waterway was named for Thea Foss, who in 1889 paid $5 for a rowboat that was to become the foundation of a family boat rental business. More than 100 years later, the company now exists as Foss Maritime. It operates tugs and barges along the entire western stretch of the United States, from Arctic Alaska to San Diego.

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