Let’s face it: Russell’s decision to move to Seattle and abandon Tacoma was a punch in the face to our city and city residents alike. Let’s take a week to mourn their decision and the negative consequences the move will have on our city and then get over it and continue to work to rebuild Tacoma.
It is hard to blame the Russell Company for moving. Had they stayed in Tacoma, they would have been located across the street from the Luzon Building which is in such a dilapidated and dangerous condition it has forced the City of Tacoma to close the adjacent street. In contrast, moving to Seattle will allow Russell to move into the shiny Chase Center. Can Tacoma really be surprised of Russell’s move?
Having Russell move out of downtown Tacoma will certainly have a significant negative impact on restaurants and other businesses in the area where Russell employees frequent.
An even worse blow may have been delivered to the psyche of Tacomans who have been pummeled by Seattle continuously for the last 100 years. The latest poaching of Russell from Tacoma is just another series of blows Tacoma has endured from Seattle.
The Good News
Although the Russell Company was physically located downtown, the company took great pains in their building design to interact very little with urban life downtown.
Russell employees drove to a private parking garage downtown and then walked over the street via a skybridge adding very little to the vibrancy of the area.
Unlike other businesses downtown such as DaVita, Russell had its own cafeteria within the building isolating many of its employees from the streets of Tacoma.
Hopefully, the new tenants of the Russell building will be more independent and from a variety of companies which will facilitate new businesses and life downtown. The Russell Building appears to be in good shape and could be relatively easy to lease.
Whatever the future, Tacoma needs to take the initiative and redouble its efforts to reduce the visible blight downtown if it is every going to attract and retain companies downtown and people who would want to work at them.
Erik Bjornson is an attorney in Downtown Tacoma who often writes about urban issues in local papers and blogs. He is a member of the North End Neighborhood Council and edits the blog the Tacoma Urbanist.