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Planned warehouse complex worries neighbors

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One of the last large swaths of undeveloped land on the Tacoma tideflats is being considered for a warehouse complex that could span up to 1.7 million square feet on 78.5 acres of land at the city line between Tacoma and Fife. The Port of Tacoma Commission signed a 50-year lease with global real estate investment trust Prologis for the site over the summer. Prologis has $52.6 billion in total assets under its management that includes 594 million square feet of development spanning 2,900 industrial properties in 21 countries around the world.

The development, located north of 12th Street East (east of 46th Avenue East) will be on Port of Tacoma property within the City of Tacoma, but Fife residents on the other side of 12th Street East aren’t happy with the idea of added trucks driving down their residential street or the associated noise of such a massive complex. No permits have been submitted, and the development has to still undergo a series of environmental and traffic reviews that are expected in the coming months. Those reviews will have their own public hearing processes.

“We have not submitted any applications yet because the intent is to get feedback, work with the cities (Tacoma and Fife), the Port and then submit our environmental application. There are no hard and fast dates because we want to get all the feedback,” said Dan Letter, Prologis Vice President of West Region Development.

As plans sit now however, the San Francisco-based firm will build up to 1.7 million square feet of yet-to-be determined warehouse, commercial and light industrial operations in four buildings at 5200 12th St. E. One proposed building would span 1.1 million square feet, another will total 227,000 square feet, another would have 185,000 square feet and the last building will cover 201,000 square feet.

As of yet, what will go into these buildings has not been decided. “We don’t have any tenants in tow for any of this,” Letter said, noting that Prologis tenants typically range from manufacturers to distributors and, in this case, to ancillary uses for the Port.

Port officials had been talking and preparing the land for years while they courted potential developers to lease the space. The port will receive $2.1 million a year under the lease with Prologis, which manages 15 million square feet of commercial spaces in Puget Sound, including about 2 million square feet in Fife on 20th Street East.

“The City of Fife and the Port of Tacoma have been working on this for a long time,” City of Fife Community Development Director Steven Friddle said.

The development involves the City of Tacoma handling the permitting process, the Port of Tacoma overseeing the environmental review and Fife handling the widening of 12th Street East from two lanes to three lanes to allow for easier traffic flows. Sidewalks on the residential side, undergrounding of power lines and landscaping along 12th are also in the works to shift the road from being largely just for residential use to adding commercial traffic, although early draft plans show the main access point to the four-building complex will be at nearby 8th Street to limit truck traffic on 12th Street.

The facility will be likely connected to Fife utility lines under future agreements still being discussed.

“We are still early in the process,” said Fife Public Works Director Russ Blount.

The land also has 12 acres set aside for the future completion of State Route 167 and another 19 acres for habitat restoration.

RESIDENTS SOUND OFF

On Aug. 27, Port of Tacoma and City of Fife officials organized an informational meeting for residents near the proposed development site to outline the planned warehouse and seek comment about the planned road changes along 12th Street East that lies between the site and the neighborhood. A sizeable crowd of residents gathered to learn more about the project and to express their concerns about it destroying the integrity of the neighborhood, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Fife.

Representatives from City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, City of Fife and Prologis led the meeting. “We are proud of what we do, but we are also proud to be good neighbors,” Letter said in his opening remarks, noting that residents were welcomed to submit their thoughts in writing as well.

Bill Sterud, Chairman of Puyallup Tribe, stood to address the crowd of neighbors gathered and they seemed appreciative of having his voice on their side. He said the cumulative impacts of such large scale development of the Port area “have been permitted without adequate thought, consideration, mitigation or improvements to avoid significant impacts to (residents) on 12th Street East,” which is fueling fears among residents that one of the last vestiges of Fife’s character will be taken away once the Prologis development is in place.

Responding to a traffic study Prologis has already conducted in the area, Sterud said the proposed Prologis development would push several local roads to the brink of failure, particularly at Port of Tacoma Road at Pacific Highway East where traffic congestion is already a daily struggle for drivers. Sterud and other residents expressed deep concerns that 12th Street East, the street right in front of their houses, would suffer the same fact with acres of new warehouses going in. “It is already extremely difficult to navigate traffic in the immediate and surrounding areas on a daily basis, and the proposed project will make such difficulties infinitely worse, and put residents at risk if an evacuation of the area was required due to an emergency.”

Sterud said, and the crowd agreed, that as a resident on 12th Street East he regularly sees truck traffic go by in spite of a ban on truck traffic on the road. “Opening up a section of 12th Street East to truck traffic to reach an entrance for the facility at 46th Avenue East will only increase the unauthorized truck traffic in front of my and other Tribal members’ properties even if there is a ban on truck traffic.” He said it would take constant monitoring by Tribal and local police to keep trucks off the road unless a roundabout or some other physical means is installed to keep trucks at bay.

“The proposed development would increase traffic in the area, including residential neighborhoods, by 30 percent in the case of outbound traffic and 25 percent for inbound traffic. The roads are currently at or over capacity, leading to extensive traffic issues without this proposed 1.7 million square foot warehouse facility and other proposed developments in the Port of Tacoma. The jurisdictions continue to permit new development without a full assessment, and improvement, of the traffic issues that already exist.”

Resident Lauren Butler-Thomas spoke about the noise she and her neighbors must endure from Port of Tacoma and high traffic already congesting the area, especially on weekday rush hours. “It’s loud. It’s very loud,” she said. “This is zoned residential. To say that we’re not from a community that is a neighborhood where we care about each other, that’s what we’re here for. If you guys are looking for something that will make it even louder, we’re real live human beings who love the earth and the animals here and when you do all this, they run to our house – the possums, raccoons, and rats.”

Fife Deputy Mayor Pat Hulcey said his family has lived in the neighborhood since 1927. “I live in this neighborhood too. I grew up with Bill (Sterud). I’ve been talking to these people since this thing first came around and I’ve been getting nowhere so I’m happy everybody is here. I’m glad we got a lot of input and Bill was very succinct in what he was saying. Putting trucks on this street is not going to work. We have close to 3,000 vehicles coming and going every day during the morning and evening and you add something else in there it’s going to be a mess.”

Sterud encouraged the residents to not stop making their voices heard. “They can’t take your heart away, but they will try to take your homes away because they’re going to make it hard to live here. I just want to say to the people who live here, don’t stop. Make them make it at least livable around here because they’re trying to take it away.”

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