Monday, December 3, 2007

More Dollars Need to Flow to Finance Urban Waters Construction

The price tag for Tacoma’s planned Urban Waters project has more than doubled since last spring’s estimates, rising from $18 million to more than $40 million.

The latest plans call for a three-story, 56,000-square-foot facility on the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway--expanded from the two-story, 40,000-square-foot structure previously envisioned. City officials say it will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standards, the highest level on a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. That means it will be a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly building, complete with a plant-covered roof, natural ventilation, rain garden and underground heat pump--the first of its kind in the country to earn the status.

The new, higher estimate is a total project cost, and it includes construction of state-of-the-art facility. Meeting stricter environmental standards increases the upfront cost, but could yield as much as 30-35 percent annual savings in utility costs. The city is partnering with the nonprofit National Development Council (NDC) to build the lab, a move that is expected to speed up construction and possibly lower the overall cost. NDC formed a separate nonprofit, Tacoma Environmental Services, for the project; for the first 30 years, that nonprofit will own the facility and the City will lease it. After 30 years, it will revert to City ownership.

Tenants will include the City of Tacoma’s Environmental Services Department (about 43,500 square feet), the Puget Sound Partnership, a new state agency charged with cleaning up Puget Sound, (about 7,500 square feet), and the University of Washington Tacoma (about 5,000 square feet for a researcher and staff).
Initial design allots only 35 parking spaces for an expected 140 employees plus visitors, with the slack expected to be made up via public transportation and carpooling. The facility is expected to be finished in April 2009.