By Meghan Hall
GIS International Group has a history of developing residential and multifamily properties across the Puget Sound, but one of its latest endeavors has the firm touting the positives of developing outside the boundaries of Seattle’s urban core. Partnering with DMG Capital Group, GIS is working to deliver Tacoma Trax, a 115-unit mixed-use project at the heart of Tacoma’s growing Dome District. The development will be one of the first mid-rises in the neighborhood, setting a precedent not just for the community, but GIS as it pursues other projects in the region.
“Primarily what attracted us specifically [to this site is] that it is such a growing market,” explained GIS’s Chief Executive Officer Eugene Gershman. “This particular development is located right next door to Tacoma’s transit hub between the Sounder Train, Amtrak Station and street car. This is a true transit-oriented development.”
GIS first became involved with the development after DMG Capital acquired the property from Pierce Transit, the local transit authority. In all, the project will total 154,437 square feet. About 17.4 percent of the units will be two-bedrooms, 64.3 percent will be one-bedrooms and 18.3 units will be studios. 53 parking stalls will also be included in the project. Residential amenities will incorporate a fully equipped fitness center, game room and lounge, bike wash and DIY room, among others. An 8,418 square foot roof terrace with views of the Tacoma skyline and Port of Tacoma, complete with landscaping and community garden, will top the project off.
The ground floor will feature a two-story indoor Farmer’s Market and retail with roll-up garage doors that will create and indoor-outdoor feel. The space has been designed to incorporate several sidewalk access points, as well as access to outdoor terraces. Other features of the space include a dual pane glass fire place and “hang out” zone, opportunities for café-style seating and commercial kitchens to cook meals on-demand.
“[The Farmer’s Market] makes a whole lot of sense as far as the neighborhood is concerned,” noted GIS Principal Ryan Grams. “Our biggest thing…is how do we make residential space more livable.”
Total project costs are expected to come in at around $41 million. However, Tacoma has been experiencing unprecedented growth. To-date, more than $1 billion has been invested in downtown Tacoma alone. Within the multifamily sector, investor interest in Tacoma remained high in 2020, even as rents in core markets further north softened. A recent report by Kidder Mathews noted that Tacoma saw a record of 12 sales with a higher price-per-unit basis than previous years. Rents also climbed slightly in the market over the past year as suburban areas proved favorable during the pandemic. Despite rising levels of investment, many of Tacoma’s neighborhoods have not seen the same level of development as Seattle, providing an excellent opportunity for investors and developers like GIS and DMG Capital.
“It’s one of the first projects in this neighborhood that is going to be that tall,” said Gershman. “That’s one of the most exciting things about this building…In real estate, it can sometimes be scary to be one of the first, but in this particular case it’s an excellent advantage to be the first building to rise pretty tall in that neighborhood…”
For GIS, the development process in Tacoma also was far different. Grams admitted that the project thus far has been fairly straightforward, enjoying widespread support from City officials and the local community. NIMBYISM—or resistance to development from the community—has been minimal, a far cry from other projects near the core of Seattle.
“What excites me about Tacoma is that for forever, there has been this egocentrism around Seattle and King County,” said Grams. “…and I think Tacoma is beautiful and burgeoning and the best kept secret…It’s an excellent value.”
As GIS continues its work on Tacoma Trax, the Gershman and Grams stated they will definitely consider other suburban markets in the future. The pair hopes that Tacoma Trax will also set a strong precedent for the neighborhood, and bring other development to Tacoma’s Dome District in the coming years, transforming it from an industrial area to a more, vibrant mixed-use, part of town.
“It is a great opportunity for our company to grow,” said Gershman. “…We’re always looking for the best product we can deliver…This development fix perfectly with that plan.”