Old Elks Lodge: New McMenamin’s Hotel

Take a look at this place!

The current McMenamin’s project is staggering. Downtown On The Go put on a tour of the site last night for 100 lucky folks. It was pretty dark in there so please excuse that the photos are a bit noisy and blurry.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
There is a whole lotta scaffolding in this place to access and repair the ceilings, plaster and crown moldings.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
The intricate details found here are from another time and place. This will be the premier event space in Tacoma as soon as it opens.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
My first thought was that this space could rival the market Showbox in Seattle.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
Much of the building is hard to comprehend at the moment. Multiple bars and restaurants are slated to exist here within the next 2 years.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
Syringes and human waste are long gone but a robust collection of graffiti remains to remind us of a recent, dark past.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
The brothers McMenamin will be revered for taking on this project. In addition to the Elks Lodge, they are also up to the challenge of the Old City Hall Building.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
Sitting on a steep hillside, the building spans several stories from Broadway down to Stadium Way.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
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.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
A look inside the walls. There are currently a few areas inside the building where you can see up or down hundreds of feet.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
Nothing better than oversized columns to serve as goalposts for future mosh pits.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
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.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
The ornamental details in the wood and plaster here will put the California Bank building on Pacific to shame.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
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?
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
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 ceilings are quite a project. If you’ve done much painting or drywall work, you know working on ceilings is always an extra challenge.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma
I’m envisioning private suites or luxury boxes around the perimeter of this event space. 22-year-olds could be overspending on bottle service at bad pop shows before we know it.
McMenamin's Elks Lodge in Tacoma

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.

Commercial tenants in Proctor Station

I’ll say this about the future tenants of Proctor Station: they better kick ass. It’s unfair and real. Everyone will stop super-disliking this building if we get something out of it. Most of us will never go above street level in this place so the street level shops are the only thing that will matter once it’s been around awhile. The building already looks not-that-tall to me, so apparently I’m getting used to it. We’ve heard rumors of the supposed search for tenants, but I will reserve painfully honest judgment until I get a look-see at what moves in. I’m difficult to please so it won’t be easy to stoke my favor. I would just assume fill the whole place with restaurants that stay open late. 

What businesses would you like to see operating in Proctor Station? Anybody have the inside track on who, if anybody, is slated to open up shop?

proctor station construction

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?

Owners set to remodel classic Tacoma restaurant

Harbor Lights Harbor Lights Harbor Lights bar

Harbor Lights has been a staple on the Tacoma waterfront for decades. Over the years very little has changed here and its patrons love the consistency. Most people were a little nervous when they heard that the classic seafood joint planned to undergo a facelift starting today, March 11, 2013. It is rumored that the bar will be expanded and reoriented to maximize the water views from the inside. The signature food (crab) and the “strong pour” in the bar are rumored to be sticking around.
 
It’s rare to be stagnant in today’s world and be rewarded for it, but that’s what has happened with Harbor Lights. What a luxury, to have most of your loyal patrons prefer you NOT update with the times. This update seems like a roll of the dice to me..but I’m hoping for the best. See you on the other side!