July 24, 2006

Downtown Tacoma Condos

Filed under: tacoma — sparkrobot @ 12:17 am

It’s all the rage. Tacoma has been attempting to reinvent itself and prop up the downtown area as the happening city center.

This post is inspired in part by some recent posts I’ve been reading in a variety of Tacoma blogs on the subject of downtown’s new condo developments. Saturday, I decided to go ahead and go out and see for myself what all the chatter was about. I made my way over to what is being called “New Tacoma” (which I think may have previously been known as Hilltop) to check out a couple of developments and bear witness. I made my way over to McCarver Village II and City Steps on Yakima.

I first stopped at McCarver Village and toured the three models they have available. The construction, materials and layout were good quality and the views were nice, including several of the Commencement units with an unobstructed view of Mount Rainier. Pretty impressive. The three models were priced at roughly $325K, $340K and $350K for between about 1400 and 1550 square feet of space.

I moved on to the smaller townhome style City Steps where there were two rows of about 20 or so condos facing one another. The units were a little smaller, starting at about 1100 square feet, with I think 6 floor-plan options. Though similarly priced, the materials seemed lower quality than McCarver, if only marginally so.

So, overall, they were nice. I’m certain they’ll all sell.

Here’s the rub. I know the cost of owning real estate has skyrocketed nationwide and the pricing is not a Tacoma phenomenon, but there’s a problem here. There are very few jobs in Tacoma that can support the cost of a mortgage payment for these new spaces. $350,000? Come on. That’s at least $2K a month. These, the places that are to inspire young people—the kind of people that can create and inspire the vibrant urban community Tacoma is so adamantly in search of—to flock to the city center and revitalize the culture. Yeah. They’re out of reach. A lot of people are priced right out… to the suburbs. Or to some other town where they’re not expected to create the culture because it already exists, in addition to being affordable.

Said best here

$300k is a lot less than we’d have to pay for most downtown condos, yet with a house, you get a yard, a buffer from neighbors, etc.—things that a condo does not have. Why would someone, especially a young person with limited financial resources, even consider buying a condo if they could get an equivalently-sized house for significantly less money?

Well.. right. At least the rumored downtown grocery is a step in the right direction.


  1. I agree with you there. I would like to buy a condo in downtown Tacoma. Sure, there is no place to buy groceries, or even a toaster, (unless it’s antique!) but I like the idea of being in the center. But the prices! Are you kidding? Even with a double income and pretty good jobs it is still out of reach. Do they want only lawyers and stockbrokers living downtown? Will I have any money left for that 4 dollar beer down at the corner bar, or to pay 6 dollars for 5 apples at the farmers market? I know prices are going up, but you can’t squeeze water out of a rock.

    Comment by Kim — August 20, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

  2. Hey Kim, you’re right on. I’ve had several conversations with people (offline) regarding the targetted demographic of these developments. I like the idea of being in the center too, but it might be unsustainable. The places I visited are even on the “affordable” end of the spectrum as far as the condos go. Downtown Tacoma is a great place and is on a path to being an interesting place to be, but by consenting to seemingly arbitrary prices to “get in on the ground floor” of this revitalization is superficially myopic. I understand the median price for a home in Tacoma is on the rise, but we’re talking about condos. They’re apartments. End of the day, if someone doesn’t have money left for that $4 beer (who just has one?) or $6 quintet of apples because it’s all sunk in a mortgage, it doesn’t exactly bode well for the surrounding economy. If these places were aggressively priced, there might be more incentive for urban pioneers (ahem, young people) to become advocates for the revitalization.

    Maybe I just like to complain. “Back in my day sonny, a condo cost…”

    Comment by sparkrobot — August 21, 2006 @ 12:32 am

  3. I agree with everyone who has posted, its entirely too high for the demographic they are attempted to target. Young couples (even possibly with kid(s)) could move into downtown and turn what was formerly cold and abandoned looking (in the last decade) to welcoming and vibrant… Its impossible though. Yes, perhaps young lawyers are the only ones who can afford it… At any rate, it appears the developers in the stadium district have their sights set a bit lower. Looks like the Dorothy and Ansonia are remodeling and turning co-op for about half the price of their new downtown swankier counterparts.

    Comment by Janna — February 18, 2008 @ 9:50 pm

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