Weekly Weedly

Hilltop deserves dispensaries too!

My first article for the Weekly Weedly discusses the need for a retail cannabis space in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma can be found at this link.

I would like to take the time to thank the staff at the Weekly Weedly for allowing me to write this article and look forward to producing many more. Local news, jobs, entertainment and more – let me know what you would like to see covered.

Imagine this property as a cannabis retailer in Hilltop

One of my lifelong dreams, upon moving from Utah to Tacoma last year, was the idea of opening a cannabis dispensary. That’s about all I knew at the time when we started planning our move three years ago, so I dove in and started researching and doing my due diligence.

Starting with the City of Tacoma’s Marijuana Regulations (www.cityoftacoma.org/cms/one.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=69725) I discovered a plethora of information on opening a cannabis dispensary.

I had never even visited Washington before moving to Tacoma and it took about a year to acclimate to the area and find a home in Hilltop where we were “warned” about the area from various sources (mostly social media, none of it true) about how horrible and gang filled it is. This was an issue 20 years ago, which the Tacoma Police Department worked hard by installing annex close to St. Joseph’s Hospital. The Neighborhood and Community Services of the Tacoma Police Department (www.cityoftacoma.org/government/city_departments/neighborhood_and_community_services) has done a fantastic job cleaning up the neighborhood, which is full of homes that were original to the founding of Tacoma, full of history and art and worthy of preservation.

The big question is, how does a community go about changing a community notorious for gang violence in the 1980s back into a family and successful, walkable business neighborhood that people will invest in for the future?

One of the first requirements of a successful business is supply and demand. While researching this article, I obtained the Recreational Marijuana map from the City of Tacoma from planning and development services, which, according to their website:

“Provides the locations where I-502 (Recreational Marijuana production, processing, or retail sales) are permitted within the City of Tacoma. While the map is a great tool that can assist marijuana businesses to find locations, it should be used with some discretion. Many variables and factors can determine whether a recreational marijuana use will be in a permissible location. Further, some areas on the map that do not show up may be affected by a sensitive use that was mis-categorized in the analysis or was recently vacated. It is up to all businesses to verify whether their location is acceptable independently. The City of Tacoma also recommends that recreational marijuana related businesses contact the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) to verify that their location is acceptable.”

I consider areas such as Hilltop, downtown and less affluent areas as “cannabis deserts” when it comes to cannabis dispensaries, the closest being either Urban Bud near Pacific Avenue and Diamond Green on 12th Street. This is in addition to grocery stores and other necessities, such as bakeries and cafés, all of which are under development along MLK Jr. Way.

These areas need attention – preservation through, of course, financing. My obvious answer is cannabis and although the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) is not currently accepting applications for new cannabis retailers or producers, when they are, I have a specific site in mind for a shop in Hilltop.

Located 1110 and 1120 S. MLK Jr. Way, this shop is actually two properties situated by the Zodiac Supper Club and the Red Elm Cafe. This shop would be the ideal place for the first dispensary in Hilltop, honoring the great Martin Luther King, Jr. and the people who have worked so hard to maintain Hilltop and want it to grow and become what Tacoma needs, not what other cities want. Hilltop needs walkable, diverse retail cannabis shops just as much as the rest of Tacoma.

Built in 1925, (and although not listed as an active property, but does have for rent signs in the windows), this historic building has 19.450 square feet available for retail space (for demographic details go to www.loopnet.com/listing/1110-1116-martin-luther-king-jr-way-tacoma-wa/5782511/).

A second consideration for a successful business is customers, naturally. Hilltop is not known for parking and with the addition of the Tacoma Link project, it will bring business access to new customers, vendors and business.

The project is adding six new stations connecting the Stadium District to Wright Park and numerous medical facilities, running along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Go to www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/hilltop-tacoma-link-extension for more information. You can sign up for updates on the Tacoma Link project by going to www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/hilltop-tacoma-link-extension/news-updates.

Supporting local businesses with walkable access, employing homeowners and neighbors and increasing diversity by expressly recruiting for people of color, LGBTQ and disabled employees will only bring more business to the neighborhood.

Gentrification is a subject that has to be addressed when discussing this type of business and residential development. Yes, some properties will be sold and redeveloped for affordable housing. Home prices on existing homes will increase. Taxes will increase. New businesses have already started filling in, including the Tacoma Baking Company (www.tacomabakingcompany.com). According to the News Tribune, the old Rite Aid site (both on MLK) was recently purchased for mixed affordable housing and much needed retail space. But this is the price we all must pay to leave a better future for the next generations.

If we want to compete in our own Tacoma spirit with places such as Seattle, we need to focus on keeping the history alive with areas such as Hilltop and downtown. Holding on to these pieces of art and restoring them is a good way to show respect to those who initially founded Hilltop. Hilltop Business District Profile can be found here http://makeittacoma.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Hilltop_BusinessDistrict_Profile-2016.pdf from a 2016 Residential Profile Summary. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change in 2020 when the Hilltop Link is complete.

I also spoke a current city employee, while confirming the requirements, who agreed that Hilltop is in need of a cannabis dispensary and believed it could only improve business in the area.

As a diverse community, we need to elect representatives that understand that need for affordable housing and investing in local companies in growing industries, and there is none bigger in the Pacific Northwest than cannabis. Please do your due diligence on political candidates. Make sure you and everyone you know is registered to vote and actually vote (to register, go to https://voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx).

Local and curious on how to get started on opening a shop? Go to https://lcb.wa.gov for all of the information required by the state of Washington (WSLCB) as well as federal requirements.

  1. Apply for a permit at https://aca.accela.com/TACOMA/Default.aspx
  2. Find inspection information at tacomapermits.org/inspections
  3. Recommended permit timelines to expect are available at tacomapermits.org/permit-status
  4. Check the cost estimate at tacomapermits.org/pds-resource-library/fee-estimator
  5. Get your submittal checklist started at tacomapermits.org/permitting-library
  6. Resource Library and Partner Agencies can be found at www.tacomapermits.org/pds-resource-library

The Weekly Weedly would like to hear from you. Where in Tacoma would you like to see more cannabis dispensaries? Would you prefer that dispensaries carry local products or will you buy based on price and location? Let us know how you feel at mnagle@tacomaweekly.com.

And as new homeowner in Hilltop, a big NO THANK YOU to changing the name to New Tacoma. We love Hilltop, and it is only going to improve and stay Hilltop strong with inevitable development.

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