The Transformation of a “Tombstone of Tacoma” to a Modern Multi-Use Building

After roughly 40 years of an unsightly city-owned garage marring the face of Tacoma’s developing downtown streetscape, this former “Tombstone of Tacoma” has been transformed into an award-winning, 250,000 square foot steel-framed 500-stall parking garage, office, and high-end retail space that brings a new vibrancy to the burgeoning metropolis.


Smartbeams – the Structural Steel Solution for Greater Strength

With the goal of improving and revitalizing the neighborhood, the City of Tacoma and Pacific Plaza Development LLC partnered to renovate the 1960s-era parking garage. At the recommendation of Absher Construction, Stearns joined with PCS Structural Solutions to assist with design development. Stearns furnished and installed all structural steel components, provided shop and construction drawings, and implemented SmartBeam. This innovative approach for long-spans delivers greater strength with less weight, enables a high level of flexibility for building tenants, and offers greater floor plan efficiency with column-free parking. Additionally, the beams are aesthetically appealing, accentuate natural lighting and voluminous space thanks to the exposed, ceiling-free structure, and compliment the state-of-the art mechanical system by allowing duct lines to pass through pre-aligned holes in the beam webs.


A Sustainable Approach to Construction

By choosing to reuse – rather than demolish – the existing structure, the team was able to retain 78 percent of the original surface area, which was just the beginning of the resourceful approach that came to define this project and gain it acclaim. Numerous sustainable initiatives were implemented, such as a 30,000 square foot live vegetative roof and rain water collection system that utilizes a centuries-old, block-wide Turkish bath that was uncovered during construction.  This bath is used as a cistern,  pumping the collected rain water back up to irrigate the rooftop garden and to flush the building’s toilets, thus maximizing water reuse, minimizing potable water needs by around 85 percent, and reducing the amount of water entering the storm water system into Thea Foss Waterway. The live roof also creates a micro-climate, which lowers the overall temperature of the building and reduces energy consumption.  The 42 percent window-to-wall ratio maximizes natural light and further minimizes the reliance on electricity.  Additionally, the design team selected recycled products, low-emitting products, and sought out regional materials when available. 


Pacific Plaza Exceeds Expectations; awarded LEED Platinum

By implementing these green initiatives, BLRB Architects helped to make Pacific Plaza Washington’s first commercial office building (and one of only 21 core and shell projects worldwide) to achieve LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council – the highest possible rating for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.  Additionally, the project earned the Ghilarducci Award  from the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce in recognition of successful new development & renovation, a Build Washington Award for Green Building from the Associated General Contractors of Washington, the Commercial Revitalization Award from the City of Tacoma, and NAIOP’s annual Sustainable Development Award, to name a few.