$40 million, 7-story apartment complex to break ground next to downtown Tacoma library

"This development … will turn an underutilized City of Tacoma parking lot into a thriving community for approximately 300 people, with 34 affordable units and ground-level retail amenities," says mayor Marilyn Strickland.
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"This development … will turn an underutilized City of Tacoma parking lot into a thriving community for approximately 300 people, with 34 affordable units and ground-level retail amenities," says mayor Marilyn Strickland.
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One-time homeless hangout to become apartment building near Tacoma library

July 11, 2017 06:12 PM

A $35 million to $40 million apartment building with at least 160 units directly south of the Tacoma Library main branch could break ground this fall.

The Hailey Apartmentdevelopment, at 1210 Tacoma Ave. S., will replace a city-owned, three-quarter-acre parking lot at the southwestern corner of Tacoma Avenue South and Earnest S. Brazill Street.

The six-story building could open within two years, according to a purchase and sale agreement inked with the city last year.

HQC USA LLC is backing the development and will aim for 180 units, said company director Quan Truong.

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The company plans to pay for the entire project with cash, said Debbie Bingham, program development specialist with the city of Tacoma’s economic development office.

Its parent company, Hoang Quan Group, is based in Vietnam. Its real estate arm has 15 years of development experience, according to documents obtained by The News Tribune through the state Public Records Act.

The Tacoma development is the company’s first foray into real estate in the United States, Bingham said, “and they want to do more as well.”

The company has not started looking formally for other projects yet, she said.

The development south of the library will include ground-floor retail and two levels of underground parking with at least 150 spots. Of those, 34 parking spots must be for library use and will be leased by the city for $65 a month per space for the next five years, documents say.

The City Council approved the sale of the library parking lot Jan. 3 for $750,000, the lot’s appraised price, Bingham said. It will transfer ownership once the investment group meets certain benchmarks.

Twenty percent of the housing units will be considered affordable — where those who earn 80 percent or less of Pierce County’s median income can afford to live there.

A three-member family earning $53,650 a year or less, living in a two-bedroom apartment there today, would pay $1,341 a month, according to information from the city of Tacoma.

In exchange, the project will receive an exemption from property taxes on the improved value of the land for 12 years, Bingham said.

Those behind HQC USA LLC had considered buying the Washington Building downtown, Bingham said. However, the group balked at the historic building’s $9.6 million price tag.

Instead, Unico Properties bought the building in December and is converting the high-rise office building into apartments.

Hoang Quan Group boasts nearly 1,500 employees in Vietnam. More than 10,000 apartment units have been built or are under construction in the country, documents say. In all, those investments amount to more than $450 million.

Last year, Mayor Marilyn Strickland visited the company’s headquarters during an eight-day tour of Vietnam and China. She and city economic development staff members were courting investors for this and other projects.

Strickland visited some of the company’s projects in Vietnam, which includes workforce and low-income housing.

“They were well done and well made,” she said.

Strickland called the parcel by the library an “emerging part of town.”

Two years ago, the city considered the area a hot spot for homeless activity. Workers cleared the site multiple times in 2015, removing hypodermic needles, human waste and mounds of trash.

In response, the city placed boulders in the grass parking strip there to prevent people from camping overnight. There was a sit-in protest against the boulders, which were criticized as a ham-fisted attempt to remove homeless from the area.

Redeveloping the adjacent parking lot into a six-story retail and apartment building will help because there will be “more feet on the street,” Bingham said. “More activity will make it less attractive for nuisances and more attractive for businesses.”

The development is a few blocks from another apartment building, The Napoleon Apartments, which is under construction at 1515 Tacoma Ave. S.

The $30 million project broke ground last year and will include 135 units. Just to the north is the Marcato condominium building, completed in 2006.

Bates Technical College is a block up the hill from the library, and it’s a brisk 15-minute walk to University of Washington Tacoma.

Many apartment buildings throughout the downtown are either fully occupied or nearly so. Apartment construction throughout Pierce County is at record levels, with thousands of units scheduled to come online within the next two years — at a rate not seen since the 1980s.