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The building is located at 1501 Market Street in Tacoma. The property also includes the surface parking lot located at 1502 Market Street. Built in 1992, the 149,300-square-foot building features five stories, ample parking, easy access to public transit and walkable distance to downtown businesses and amenities. The prior owner was Regence BlueShield.
The 64-year-old County-City Building (CCB) has evolved through expansion and renovations to accommodate various uses over the years. It is now stretched to its maximum, even taking into consideration new virtual and hybrid programs added over the last two years because of the pandemic. Without major system and building renovations, making programmatic revisions to the building are becoming increasingly challenging while new building codes and standards require safer and more energy efficient construction.
A 2022 Justice Center and Space Planning Study analyzed the County’s 20-year growth and demand, recommending that Pierce County find a suitable building for administrative operations. This will allow programs and services not related to law and justice to leave the CCB. The CCB would then become a fully supported and centrally located Pierce County Justice Center.
Moving administrative departments to an operations-focused building would provide an opportunity to replace outdated systems, improve operational efficiencies and boost customer service in law and justice programs through organizational adjacencies and improvements. Many of the building’s systems have reached or exceeded their life spans. The value is added by phasing in operational improvements and upgrades in a way that ensures the CCB remains a viable Pierce County asset for decades to come.
Excluding closing and settlement costs, the County paid $27,271,000. The County commissioned an appraisal that valued the property at or above $27,300,000.
The County Council approved the sale of limited tax general obligation bonds to purchase the building and make improvements at this building and the County-City Building. The debt service for these new bonds will be covered by the retirement of two previous bond debts (Parkland Precinct and 2002 Jail).
The purchase of the building would allow for consolidation of County-leased spaces and maximize County-owned space utilization, a cost savings for taxpayers. The CCB would become a dedicated Justice Center for the growing needs of judicial operations for the County and the City of Tacoma. County administrative departments and Council would be relocated from many leased spaces to the purchased building.
We expect the following groups and departments to move into the building by early 2025:
The consolidation of County operations into this building will include moving out of other buildings that are currently leased. For example, the Department of Assigned Counsel will be able to move from its leased space on Market Street to the Justice Center campus (the CCB and properties the County owns on Tacoma Ave and Fawcett Ave).
The General Services Building proposal focused on combining all administrative functions, including those housed at the Annex, into one location. The financing for that project would have required either additional taxes or the reduction of services to pay for the debt service. More importantly, it did not address any justice-related activities.
The purchase of this building allows the County to free up space in the CCB for justice-related functions, without spending $80 million to $120 million on building a new facility. The building purchase would accelerate the remodels of three floors to further Justice Center services. Upon completion, the County would be able to consolidate some administrative services, while ending $1.9 million in annual lease payments in downtown Tacoma. All future operational expenses and bond debt can be covered by the retirement of leases and the retirement of two past bond issuances.
The justice activities in the CCB currently are at maximum capacity. There are several functions that currently cannot occur since there is no space. The Courts expand based on population and Pierce County is currently not meeting the needs for the courts.
Purchasing a building saves time, money, and starts the improvements to the Justice Center on an expedited timeline. The timing of purchasing a building corresponds with a downturn in property values and retirement of existing bond debt which can be reallocated to pay for this property and necessary improvements. Additionally, this action saves between $30 million and $70 million and five years if the County were to construct a new building. This option can be funded without a tax increase or a reduction of existing services.
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