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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Pacific Avenue in ruins

Pacific Avenue Trees removed
Photo of old Pacific Avenue trees lining the street Dec. 2012

It’s hard to pass through the northern end of Pacific Avenue right now without feeling like excrement. After driving through earlier, I am unable to fully comprehend what is happening down there. It has been puzzling for awhile now and I’ve been doing my best to keep quiet, not judge, wait and see..

But I can’t be completely silent! It looks awful and there are a lot of missing trees and ginormous trenches in the sidewalks! Tomorrow I plan to take some pictures of the whole mess and try to figure out what I’m seeing. Immediately afterwards I plan to cheer myself up with a visit to RR at Tinkertopia. Maybe he can help me understand?

This ain’t yer grandma’s Wednesday

Wednesday on the Water is finally catching on. It’s taken many years and countless posts for this never-going-to-be-a-household-name event to catch on. At least a dozen people have now participated and there’s no telling where inertia might take us.

Wednesday on the Water in Tacoma

In Tacoma we gather on Wednesday nights half the year to paddle around Commencement Bay or the Thea Foss Waterway downtown. Sailboats flock to the East side of the bay near Browns Point for a couple hours on Wednesday nights, often traversing the bay to round buoys near Ruston Way. They provide quite a show and so we started plopping down and watching a few years back. It makes for a relaxing evening of sights and sounds. Live music even shows up in various forms where you least expect it.

Of course not everyone has a boat, kayak or paddleboard. There are ways to fix that..

The subject of kayak rentals in Tacoma has come up repeatedly over the years so I figured I should let you know what we know, as of the time of this writing, 8/15/2012. Dock Street Marina (on Dock Street!) will rent boats on the Thea Foss Waterway until approximately 9pm and a group affiliated with Metro Parks rents kayaks at Owen Beach until 7pm.

If you are looking to buy a kayak or two, and you are new to this craze, I recommend Sports Authority. They have a large selection of affordable kayaks and everything you need to get started. Costco is another place for entry-level equipment that won’t break the bank. Keep in mind you will also need a good way to transport your boat.

If you already know what you like, perhaps check out Paddling Gear at REI. They always carry really nice outdoor gear.

Finally, I wanted to let you in on a bit of an obsession we’re cultivating around here. I want to start saving pennies in a jar to help pay for what will likely be our next big purchase. When the finances and the time and the stars and the moon align, we will be acquiring a kayak kit from Pygmy Boats in Port Townsend, Washington. With their help, we will be building our own kayak or two or three.. So light, so long and so pretty, I’ll probably need to take a sedative the first time it scrapes on the beach. Pygmy ships you everything you need to make your very own luxury kayak; all you need is space, time and a little elbow grease. Oh, and $1000 or so.

See you on the water.

Polar Plaza, game, set, match

2-5-TreesThe single greatest thing to happen to downtown Tacoma in the past 5 years is Polar Plaza. Ice skating and cheap Christmas trees. That’s all it takes to transform an awkward waste of space into something magnificent. Kudos on a job well done to whoever is behind this. We cut ourselves a fresh tree out at 4A on 72nd or you can be sure we’d have been down at 2-5-Trees. Hopefully these ventures are a success and the ice will be back next year when my little one should be old enough to give it a try.

Polar Plaza in TacomaIt seems seasonal business in Tollefson Plaza should extend year-round. What are some ideas out there for spring/summer season? How about a symphony? Volleyball courts? I’m enjoying the concept of humans existing in the concrete jungle that is Tollefson. Myself, I hadn’t been down there since working on a 72-Hour film back in 08. Hope I’ll have a reason to go back sometime soon.

To those responsible for the Polar Plaza, I say “Encore!”

Old does not equal good

Where do you draw the line between preservation and hoarding? What makes the crazy lady on Dr. Phil with 3 year old cabbage in her refrigerator any different from the guy who insists on saving the Luzon or the Murray Morgan? The gap between them is diminishing, much like their common sense. Safety, practicality, health, intelligence and fiscal responsibility are being ignored, all in the name of… keeping old stuff around…  for the sake of preserving old stuff… because it’s old.

Old does not equal good. I am increasingly tired of the notion that something needs to be preserved at any cost because it has years under its belt. The concept of age and importance being synonymous has potential to keep me up at night. If this is true, I will stop trying to be a good person and focus on aging. Apparently, the older I get the more respect I will garner from many people in Tacoma.

This will be great for me. I will become more important, significant, interesting and beautiful as I fall apart internally. Failing health, poor attitude, and lack of morals aside, I will be better than I was yesterday, apparently by definition. All I need now is for someone to start fundraising on my behalf. For an unjustified sum of money, I can get plastic surgery and some counseling to revert back to the way I was yesterday.

Tacoma needs to focus efforts and money on the preservation of things that haven’t already passed the point of no return. The Luzon and the Murray Morgan were/are both ugly and dangerous and expensive to maintain…  and by maintain, what I really mean is maintain in a state of dysfunction. Look at all the money thrown at both of these structures, for what? Neither of them has contributed anything positive to society in years.

City planners, please get back to work on fixing things that actually have life left in them. There are plenty of historic buildings in downtown that are not in a state of disrepair yet. Fix them NOW. Fascination with the hopeless must cease. This is a classic case of “careful what you wish for”, people. If this infatuation with the hopeless continues, you will soon have the entire downtown corridor on which to focus.