Tacoma is facing a housing shortage brought on by excessive demand and limited supply. The underlying problem is the migrating demographics as the tech industry circle expands farther out from Seattle. Companies and remote workers are looking for a less hectic lifestyle and more affordable living costs. The City has made efforts to help this problem with new regulations allowing for QOZ zones and upzoning areas and permitted developments rose 45% this year. Now with Covid restrictions relaxing and the economy starting to pick up, Tacoma is in an apartment building frenzy. The changes and thriving market have resulted in cookie cutter & look alike ultra-dense multi-family housing units maximizing the usable space and have brought little architectural creativity to the City. Multiple buildings are starting to look very similar with light industrial exteriors for durability in our adverse weather conditions and bland white walled boxes on the inside for easy sales or rentals.
With more Tech companies comes a higher demand for higher quality living and lifestyles. The consumer who can afford upscale housing is looking for style and uniqueness, something we want to provide with the Ship Lofts Project. The Pandemic has not helped the housing issue, stoppages were in place and delayed the completion of units and adding costs to cover these delays. Still due to the high demand the average time it takes to sell a house in Tacoma is 2 weeks for the top 10% of the market. The growing tech job market will ensure this demand remains high keeping the Tacoma housing market very hot.
After taking into account all the Tacoma housing data and discussing this data with several top Real Estate professionals in Tacoma, I realized there is a shortage of high quality, unique luxury living options inside the City core. I started to look for sites to develop a multi-unit building and discovered there are many odd shaped building lots which would require an architect to design a unique building with style and character. I was introduced to the perfect odd shaped property directly on the waterfront & next to the Museum district. It’s the last direct waterfront access undeveloped plot that was available. My goal was to design, build, own and operate a building of historical and architectural significance. This location is losing its industrial gritty heritage and I want to build a building that will honor the 140+ year history and culture of bulk resources such as steel and concrete along with the marine operation built around the cargo and shipping industries. This project will also need to fall into my “Eco Industrial” mantra. After looking into both of these issues, I decided to address each in my unique way. How can I build a mixed-use multi-unit residential building that combines luxury, eco waterfront live work condo units on an odd shaped property that has been left vacant for years?
Taking a vacant, challenging site and creating a public improvement with my unusual design is just the beginning. Why not use local large-scale resources to create a building that looks abstractly like a “ship”? I started my research to find other buildings resembling a ship in design and to my surprise there were very few built. One was a pirate ship, another looked like a cruise ship landed on top of a mountain, currently operating as a hotel. But very few had an architecturally significant aspect to them or were built to a high quality. Then I found it, it’s called Plot #1282 in Beirut, Lebanon, funded, managed and renamed Factory Lofts by Loft Investments and designed and developed by Bernard Khoury. The building is stunning in its design and has a very similar story to tell as well. Bernard found a site that was on an old toxic rail yard. This was an area that was ripe for a new development. They approached the rail company about the property that said it wasn’t a buildable site, it’s an odd shape and contaminated. That wasn’t going to stop this group of artists and developers from building their dream. They came up with a design that fit on the shape, capped the whole site in concrete and the units were built one floor above the parking garage. Problem solved! They got the site for a steal and started out to design Plot #1282. As per the Architect, the look of the building was designed from his abstract memory of what the US battleships looked like from his childhood when Lebanon was in a flux of war. What a fitting story and building for the site. It cost $45m USD to build the 95-unit, 9 story, 277,708.89 sq ft building. The group was very professional in our discussions and provided high resolution floor plans of the building for my review and to draw inspiration from.
This started the Ship Lofts project. (https://ShipLofts.com) An abstract ship looking mixed use multi-family residential building that’s a mashup between a cargo ship, cruise liner & mega yacht. A special building is required for such a special site: a Ship on a Dock. Being positioned on Thea Foss Waterway, Tacoma WA, when you see the building from downtown on the other side of the Thea Foss Waterway, the building will look as if it’s floating on water. A fitting tribute to the long history & heritage that built this area of Tacoma. I started by designing a shape that maximizes the site’s shape with a seamless fit into the neighborhood, meeting or exceeding all the special shoreline zoning, culture and heritage goals for the revitalization of the downtown waterfront. Ship Lofts will be viewed as an iconic building sized art installation, drawing people of all backgrounds to explore and rediscover the waterway. Being one of the final developments on the waterfront, it will need to be a keystone building of architectural significance fitting of it’s shoreline location, permanently tying together the design of the bridges on both sides, the heritage of the maritime industry, art/museums & boating/shipping culture.
The revitalization of the Tacoma Downtown shoreline over the past 20 years has transformed it from an industrial mecca to a water & arts lover’s dream destination. The elongated shaped lot, included an old dock structure over the waterway, mid right in the image above measures 56,100 sq ft in size, with a portion of the land required to be used for an esplanade it leaves the build-able area extremely narrow. It’s currently being used as a parking lot, but prior to this for 110+ years the site was the home to Colonial Fruit and Produce and previously and Pacific Fruit and Produce. The site has a street, railroad tracks and overpass freeway to the west Port side of the building, 330′ of waterfront, port and Mt Rainier views. To the right is the Fish Peddler seafood restaurant and to the left is the soon to be built Melanie Jan LaPlant Dressel Park. There is no housing directly in any direction, so our building obstructing views will be kept to a minimum. The property is surrounded by trails, parks, museums, restaurants and marinas all within walking distance. The site scores 69 points for walking, 76 points for biking and 100 points for water based activities! The frontage road Dock St. leads to Ruston Way, a waterfront two lane road with miles of parks & trails that leads to Point Ruston development where other new apartments have been built in a similar per sqft range have been built, rented or sold.
Building footprint overlaid onto site:
Eco Industrial design passive units that are carbon neutral, sustainable and an eco-friendly structure. Artistically using mass timber, recycled industrial and natural materials: steel, concrete, glass, wood accents, cargo containers, locally sourced with an upscale modern contemporary feeling. A timeless design, integrated in with the environment and natural surroundings to create a truly unique one-of-a-kind building for the Tacoma skyline. Hard shell on the outside: soft and gooey on the inside. Great cityscape and port views from the building will be in high demand and the view from the city will be one of wonder (is that a ship or a building?). I want the building to fit in culturally and historically as an area landmark with architectural significance. Taking a raw piece of vacant land and enhancing the Tacoma maritime history and using open spaces within the building to display art, showcasing it’s unique history. Creating an iconic building with eco-friendly design that was encouraged by Seattle’s own Bullitt Center & with forward bow tips, the stunning, artistic feature that are the shape of a Seahawk bill.
Get up and close to cargo ships, boats, yachts and the ever growing and changing cityscape of downtown Tacoma. The Ship Lofts uniqueness will be a positive public improvement and creative addition to the Tacoma Skyline. It’s an opportunity to watch the city grow into the future, but uniqueness and waterfront views will come at a premium cost. Something fun and creative: a Controversial project: you’ll Love it or Hate it. These are projects that draw on people’s emotions. A destination building. There will be no need to give an address to people, I will simply tell them that I live in the Ship Building in Tacoma! Working with unique architectural designs will transform your mind, inspiring boundless amounts of creativity and innovation.
- Mixed-use: light commercial/retail & multi-family live work condos
- Lot size: 1.29 Acres, 56,100 sqft
- Lot shape: front 330′ x back 170′
- Building size: ~100K sqft
- Height: 85′
- Livable sq ft: ~60K sqft
- Levels: 5
- Lower Level (Deck 2): 10 Cabins
- Loft 3 Level (Deck 3): 10 Loft
- Loft 4 Level (Deck 4): 6 Loft
- Loft 5 Level (Deck 5): 5 Loft
- Units: 31
- Unit sizes: 1000-3500 sqft
- Bedrooms: 1 & 2
- Ceiling heights: 15′ 6″ Parking, 11′ Lower Level, 17′ Loft Levels 3-5, 8′ Wheelhouse
- Parking spaces: 26 cars, 40 bikes
- Resident Dock mooring: 4 spaces
- Commercial/Retail Spaces back: 3 x 570 sq ft over the water converted cargo containers
- Heating: geothermal loops, heat pump to in floor radiant
- Cooling: thermal via top opening windows, large industrial ceiling fan & radiant cooling
- Internally insulated concrete floors and walls on unit levels
- Lighting: LED’s
- Management: AI based living building management system
- Intelligent energy consumption and indoor air quality & thermal monitoring systems
- Water: rainwater harvesting, greywater system with outflow too trees and wildflower patch
- Exterior: blackened steel building structure to look like the black steel hauls & tar coated hauls from ships of the past
- Interior: wood craftsmanship honoring the local sawmills and boat building
- Structure: mass timber throughout
- Recycled: local sourced concrete, steel, wood & glass, by companies such as Pacific Sheet Metal, Ash Grove & Nucor
- Salvaged bulk and modernized nautical ship and dock items, portals, lights, dock and ship bollards, a large anchor
- Waterfront: committed to ecological safe construction, habitat restoration & preservation
- Longest cantilever extension on a building in WA
- Exceeds all current and proposed sustainable and energy efficiencies required by Tacoma building code
Designed around Occupants
- Biophilic approach, connecting people to nature with the goal of improving health, elevating mood and creativity
- Live Work lofts. Large open floor plan, minimalist high-quality design to allow maximum space flexibility
- Heavy duty regenerative power elevators with open top
- High ceiling in garage for in-building truck deliveries
- Wide hallway corridors and double wide doors for ease of access
- Floor to ceiling low-e, solar charging or thermal smart glass windows along one wall for perfect light, even in the winter
- High CRI LED lights allow perfect lighting for detailed work of all types
- Full length balcony on all lofts and wrap around on Bow lofts
- Tenant and curated art work throughout the corridors and wheelhouse for private & public art events, minimalist high-quality design to allow maximum space flexibility
- Solar powered cargo container designed retail spaces
- Business quality Internet connectivity & services
- Electric vehicle charging for each unit with a parking space
- E-Bike charging & repair stand in a secured storage room
- eVTOL vehicle landing pad on the roof deck for air taxis services and drone deliveries from companies such as Uber, Boeing, Amazon, Airbus, GM, VoloCopter & Halo
- Wheelhouse on the roof deck for entertainment and gatherings
- Polished high load concrete floors throughout
- Wood walls and ceilings
- Marine grade quality of fit & finish. Ruggedized everything for live/work
- Screen shades / rails made from a black coated steel
- Frame less large doors, large hinges with a porthole, lever handle ship-based doors
- Slit Windows – mullions divider down the middle that matches the middle of the rail’s height and size, doors open on bottom, top windows slide open
- World class chef’s kitchen with pantry room & wine storage
- Spa quality master bathroom with a stone bathtub
- 4 X 100′ Resident side tie boat slips on the areas newest dock
- Guest and customer boat moorings
- Direct water access for kayaking & other water acclivities
- Dock sitting area dedicated to Thea Foss
- Wave shaped landscape with blue, purple & white flowers with an observation walkthrough.
- Front lined fruit trees honoring the 110+ years as a Fruit and Produce distribution hub
- Unique & sustainable over water retail spaces
- Walking distance to entertainment, museums & restaurants
- Outside your door is the Shoreline Esplanade
- Multiple parks within walking distance in each direction
- Goal 80% of build made from recycled materials – all new materials are post use 100% recyclable
- Parans Solar Fiber Optic Lighting to darker areas of the building
- Roof covered with low light solar panels
- Living Building Challenge & Salmon Safe certification goals, the largest LBC residential building and the 1st LBC & Salmon Safe building in Tacoma
- Deigned, engineering, MEP, procurement, construction and operation using BIM with Autodesk Revit
All images and PC/VR experience include the below ground foundation structures.
The site at 1179 Dock Street is under contract for the Ship Lofts LLC. project. I worked closely with Edward Milton-Moncivaiz and his local team at Lee & Associates who worked diligently to secure the perfect site for the building. It’s their enthusiasm, professionalism and shoreline building experience that has brought this from a vision into a project in development.
Local code states a non licensed person may design, architect and build up to a 4-unit building. In light of this requirement Ship Lofts intended to collaborate with one of the world renowned design & architecture firms that’s based in Seattle & whose vision and designs are of a similar style. This company has been previously involved with 2 buildings on the shoreline and in the Museum District.
We are in direct discussion with the top appliance company to utilize the SL project as a “showcase” development for their product lines. We’ll strive to meet or exceed their expectations, delivering an in unit culinary experience even a Michelin star chef would be envious of.
We will be conducting a full SEPA report, with Geo Tech and site Survey completed soon. Though the property will be capped in a concrete parking lot to eliminate any kind of “hazardous materials” from potentially resurfacing in the future.
The site is under the City of Tacoma Shoreline Master Plan S8 Thea Foss Waterway, Downtown Waterfront & S13 Waters of the State, Aquatic building codes. The building meets or exceeds all current codes.
Previously the Outer Harbor line was moved inward to the property line / Inner Harbor Line to accommodate the ship building company on the opposite side of the waterway. The company is no longer at this location. A Shoreline Variance will be requested to move that Outer Harbor Line back to its original location to accommodate the new mooring dock that will be added to the lowered and recapped existing dock structure.
Ship Lofts is just one creative example of what can be accomplished with an odd shaped property that others have not been able to figure out what to build.
The Ship Lofts building can be replicated to other locations with unobstructed waterfront views next to a port, industrial zone or marina. A 110′ x 330′ trapezoid or elongated rectangle shaped plot with zero setback is needed for the building’s current size, but it can be larger or smaller based on requirements.
We’re currently seeking an early stage equity partner(s) that would be interested in having their name associated with a world class piece of architecture on the downtown Tacoma waterfront.