Old Elks Lodge: New McMenamin’s Hotel

Take a look at this place!

Downtown On The Go put on a tour of the current McMenamin’s Elks site last night for 100 lucky folks. There is a whole lotta scaffolding in this place to access and repair the ceilings, plaster and crown moldings. Syringes and human waste are long gone but a robust collection of graffiti remains to remind us of the recent, dark past. Sitting on a steep hillside, the building spans several stories from Broadway down to Stadium Way. The city owns the Spanish Steps adjacent to the old Elks Lodge and current plans are incorporating them into the renovation project. There will be a bar/restaurant entrance on the landing area midway down the staircase between Broadway and Stadium Way.From what I gather, this entire site has been thoroughly sandblasted. Years in, an unfathomable quantity of restoration work needs to be wrapped up before re-finishing can begin. The ornamental details in the wood and plaster here will put the California Bank building on Pacific to shame. As dangerous as this site is now, it was far more dangerous 10 years ago. What the hell was it like in here when graffiti-happy punks and homeless addicts wandered these halls? How did everyone used to get in here when it was “vacant”? I realize skate punks with spray paint can penetrate anything, but I’d like to know just how easy the access was. Clearly, hundreds of unwanted guests logged time here.

The McMenamin’s brothers should be revered for their efforts. Rumor has it they are also up to the challenge of the Old City Hall Building renovation.

The intricate details of this building are from another time and place. Upon its completion, this will be the premier event space in Tacoma. Multiple bars and restaurants are slated to exist here within the next 2 years. I’m envisioning private suites or luxury boxes around the perimeter of the event space and 22-year-old’s could be overspending on bottle service at bad pop shows before we know it.

McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma

McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma

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Ring Doorbell craze

The mailman says everybody has them now. I went over to my neighbor’s and they have one. We recently got one. Now that I know what they look like I’m seeing them everywhere. It’s the Ring Doorbell and you have probably been recorded by one.

After putzing around for months trying to figure out which security camera(s) to choose, our decision would ultimately be made by Santa: Ring Doorbell Pro.

Ours has been online for less than a month and I’m a believer. The doorbell camera is noticeable during the day and even moreso at night with the nightvision bulbs. This deters foul play at all hours. The fisheye lens provides great detail in any light and you can customize the detection area so that your motion sensors are only triggered exactly where you want them – I am impressed with how well this feature works.

You need an existing, hard-wired, classic doorbell. You simply replace your existing button with the Ring. Anytime someone enters the motion detection area you’ve set up, or anytime someone rings the doorbell, your cameras are rolling and you are notified via text message. You can hear and speak with anyone at your door anytime from anywhere using a smartphone app. There are two of us using ours, one on an iPhone and one on a Pixel, and we’ve both had a good experience so far.

Footage is available in realtime and also stored for viewing later. 30 days of surveillance backups are included for only a few dollars per month as of this writing in early 2018. There is also a social aspect included with your subscription. Our north end neighborhood has its own Ring community where people are sharing and discussing footage of suspicious activity captured on their doorbell cameras.

NOTE: To make your new button ring your old doorbell chimes, you need to physically wire in a small box (included) to the old chimes. This process took me less than 15 minutes and I am not a qualified electrician. All doorbell wiring is low voltage so you are not at risk of electric shock during installation. To put your mind at ease, you can shut off the power before installing, but it’s not necessary.

Feel free to email me specific questions about the installation and use of the Ring.


World Water Ski Racing Championship in Tacoma

On your marks! Get set for something unusual coming to Tacoma July 26, 2017. Have you ever seen water-skiers go over 100mph? I haven’t. It looks kinda like this:

WWSRC

This year the World Water Ski Racing Championship will conduct preliminary races in Commencement Bay with the final heats taking place at Seafair in Seattle. In other words, most of this exciting event will take place along the waterfront at Point Ruston here in Tacoma. The logistics are being finalized at the time of this writing, but I’m told permits have been secured and this is most definitely a go.

There will be no tickets, no admission prices, no grandstands. Just come on down and watch one of the craziest things you’ve ever seen and have a stroll along the new waterfront. You’ve been meaning to check out all the new restaurants down there anyway, so why not go when you can also view death-defying stunts going on at the same time.

Water skiers.. 100mph.. men and women..

The event puts ski racers in choppy Commencement Bay to do as many 3-mile laps as they can. FOR SIXTY (60) MINUTES STRAIGHT. When I first heard about this, I assumed it would be like drag racing, where competitors get up to their top speed for a few seconds and then it’s over. Not so. These people are literally skiing faster than I drive my car, and they don’t stop for an hour. There are currently 60 teams of MEN AND WOMEN from all over the world slated to be in Tacoma for this event.

If you’ve never heard of water ski racing, you’re certainly not alone. It appears this phenomenon heralds from Australia where they’ve been 100mph water skiing for quite some time. Just search YouTube for “water ski racing” and you’ll see some ridiculous stuff going back decades. Much like Ice Cross Downhill, the WWSRC could emerge in the U.S., seemingly out of nowhere, to sweep spectators off their feet in short order.

Electric skateboards everywhere!

It seems every day a different, new-age gadget goes rolling past me in the Proctor District. These battery-powered means of transportation are quieter and faster than before and it’s time for me to take a closer look. The high-end models are typically not available in local retail stores so we will take to the interwaves to find them.

You may have seen someone on an electric skateboard and not even known it. The remote controls are now wireless and often fit inside the palm of your hand. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of these boards you’ve seen buzzing around the neighborhood.

HINT: If you you see someone going swiftly uphill on a skateboard while standing idle on the deck, they are riding an electric skateboard.

GT Powerboard
Off Road Electric Skateboard

$1,339.00

0-23mph in 5 seconds!
45 x 11 inches
15 mile range on flats
72 pounds with battery

Maxfind Dual Motor
Electric Skateboard

$599.00

10 mile range
38″ x 10″
60 minute run time
12.1 pounds

Time is running out for Proctor Station

Proctor Station hasn’t changed in months. A double-wide, double expensive clothing store is all we have to show for our new building. Well, that and a lot of shade and a couple parking spots in Proctor Canyon. I want to like this place. I remain open-minded. Sort of. If donuts or something of equal weight don’t appear soon, the legacy will not be good. Are the rumors of all vendors falling through or backing out true? Is the application/vetting process proving to be too much for prospective businesses interested in moving to the Proctor District’s newest address?

proctor station vacancy

From where I stand, it looks like Proctor Station’s commercial leasing department is waiting for a Walmart or McDonald’s or Macy’s or some other ‘strong’ chain with national backing to enter stage right. I’ve heard of ‘lesser’ companies being told, “you’re not good enough” for Proctor Station. I’ve seen a donut shop take several months to not show up, while “coming soon” signs age in the window. A real estate company and a barbershop have entered the “coming soon” realm as well – that means they’ve hung signs in the windows outside their empty spaces. I’ve heard of exorbitant prices at the clothing shop – clearance racks have appeared on the sidewalk out front. At this point the shuffleboard on the roof is the biggest potential draw. I’ll post an update if I ever gain access to it.

There are a few things that need to be understood about this neighborhood in the new millennium. Mom and pop shops rule the streets here. An old theater, an old bowling alley, and one-off restaurants and bars are thriving. A guy renting VHS tapes has survived for years, yet Subway failed twice in the same spot in the heart of the district. We have been up to our elbows in pricey, boutique shops, with varied outcomes. Unless you are Starbucks (already one block away) you actually have to be an interesting business to make it here. There is a level of financial clout that the commercial leasing department is looking for and I don’t know that many interesting businesses have it. All the strong financials in the world can’t support a business that nobody cares about.

Hopefully the building will settle for making their money on the upper floors, while filling the street level with businesses that serve the neighborhood first and pay hefty leases later. Unless there is a shift in perspective, prolonged vacancy and a carousel of failure may be the future of Proctor Station’s ground level.