July 23, 2009

Make Overs and New Places

In the City of Tacoma there are a number of fun buildings, some new but many turn of the century examples with lots of character as well. For years change was "coming" to Tacoma with the promise of revitalization. Like so many towns and cities across the country, the downtown area had been slowly eroding. Mainstay businesses were moving or closing and things were looking pretty shabby. The possibilities and challenges were obvious. Well funded risk takers weren't to be found. Then the tide began to turn.

The downtown train station was completed revamped into the Federal building with court rooms, a legal library, offices and the impressive lobby available for large gatherings. The original brick building has a distinctive arched front entrance with a copper domed roof. Washington State's Tacoma branch of the History Museum in it's small building was crowded to the max and sorely in need of work. The fix was nothing short of magic; take over an area down town on property right beside the "train station" and build a state of the art museum that externally emulates aspects of the train station in it's design. Then came the Chilhuly Glass Museum project planned for the other side of the highway separating that section of downtown from the waterway. The Glass Museum plans included a walking bridge across the highway to the backside of the History Museum/Federal building area. Following those projects, Tacoma Art Museum, who had been dealing with problems similar to the history museum, built their new facility steps from the Federal building.

The exact time lines of each of these projects have run together in my memory but they all occurred in a remarkably short space of time, considering the decades spent waiting for the dream of change to become a reality. And while these projects were occurring, right across the street from the station and museum the University of WA began working their magic on existing historical buildings and some new, in order to create a Tacoma campus. New retail businesses and restaurants began to fill the long vacant nearby store fronts. A wonderful rail line was put in making quick access to different areas downtown. Hotels began make-overs and new places of lodging popped up as well. Many used the restoration model rather than tearing down history. And not last by any means, but another important piece of the refresher process, the Convention Center arrived. A brand new building with angles, interest and a fun character of its own. A view from its upper window is above.

Check out Tacoma!

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