Photo of James Center North TOD
Photo of James Center North TOD
Photo of James Center North TOD
Photo of James Center North TOD
Photo of James Center North TOD

James Center North TOD

Progressive Design for a Housing Authority

This is the story of designing for dignity, for equity and diversity, through a beautiful West Tacoma neighborhood with decent housing for everybody. More than that, it’s about creating the social and biophilic connections we all need—children, seniors, young adults, sick or well, regardless of how much we make or what health support we need—to grow a new place out of no-place. Our project with the progressive Tacoma Housing Authority began with our master plan for affordable, student, and market-rate housing planned around mass transit in West Tacoma. This is about how we designed a mixed-use, mixed-income, pedestrian-oriented destination for the surrounding community—and how we hope our work can transform West Tacoma for the better, in years and decades to come.

Tacoma, Washington
  • 600 units (estimated)
  • Mid-rise: Projected story
  • 6.92 acres sq. ft.





Planning: Will Grimm

Planning Story

Creating Place Out of No Place

As part of Tacoma’s 25-year growth plan, the City is developing specific centers into compact, walkable neighborhoods where visitors and residents can shop, get vital services, and access different types of mass transit within five-minute trips. One such center is the auto-dominated, underused James Center North area west of Tacoma, 6.92 acres of which are owned by the Tacoma Housing Authority. A visionary public housing authority focused on providing high quality, affordable housing and supportive services to persons and families who need it, Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) plans to develop James Center North to bring mixed-income, mixed-use, transit-supported community to South Mildred Street between South 12th and South 19th Streets. This five-parcel property is underperforming; four retail/commercial buildings serve casual dining, medical support, hair salon, and a Buddhist temple. Our new site design reflects THA’s progressive mission to resurrect a sense of community and neighborhood connections. To provide decent housing for all populations. To make beautiful, equitable neighborhoods, for all income levels and age ranges, that will continue to thrive 50 years from now. Collaborating with key stakeholders—and listening to surrounding property owners, neighborhood residents, business owners and city officials—our design process began by extensively studying the area transit lines, nearby districts, and precedent industries. What we discovered was a clear need for not only affordable, student, and market-rate housing development, but a destination location. Our master plan connects James Center North to its surrounding communities. Streets and spaces now serve people, not just cars, treating bikes, buses, and all types of mobility equally. Every street will have its own vibe, with residential areas, community gardens, student-centered places, and social gathering spaces like food trucks and communal eating areas to activate the space. Our design includes dignified space for future mixed-use housing development of around 450 market-rate housing units, 150 affordable units, and commercial tenants. Furthermore, our urban design plan honors the flavor of West Tacoma while giving it a distinct, interesting personality. Our design flexes, encouraging people to put their own touch on their community through public art pieces, custom neighborhood signs, or public places like gardens. This is truly where our design reflects THA’s mission of equity, of making sure everyone can access decent housing, whether they're old or young, healthy or sick. Each parcel gives people something special. Our hope is that people will visit James Center North because it’s beautiful and vibrant and unlike anywhere else in West Tacoma. Our urban design plan can be a model to other agencies, developers, and cities for future socially equitable, meaningful places designed around people.