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December 10, 1999

Tacoma wants its own SoDo district

  • Officials hope renaming area will attract new development
  • TACOMA (AP) -- Tacoma is considering a trendy monicker for the part of town now dubbed the "warehouse-residential district."

    The new name? SoDo, for south of downtown.

    Why not? Seattle has one, as does Colorado Springs.

    Denver has LoDo, for Lower Downtown.

    And the overall trend can probably be blamed on New York, with its trendier-than-thou Soho district south of Houston Street.

    The Tacoma application can be laid at the feet of Seattle consultant Mark Hinshaw, who found it catchier than the "warehouse-residential district" appellation used by city planners. Hinshaw earned $350,000 in South Transit funds for helping the city draw up its proposed new downtown development plans.

    Tacoma's City Council will consider SoDo for the neighborhood south of the University of Washington branch campus when it meets Tuesday.

    The district name "doesn't have much pizzazz," said SoDo fan Mayor Bruce Ebersole.

    "It could become a fun part of town if it were a combination of artists and lofts, funky retail, urban housing and some industrial."

    The current mix includes tire stores, tattoo shops, office-furniture companies and abandoned warehouses.

    Ebersole hopes dubbing it SoDo will help attract developers.

    Local merchants aren't sure a new name will help.

    "People who drive downtown already drive through this area ... they already know about it," said Sandy Pongah, who runs a hamburger stand there.

    "This neighborhood doesn't really have an identity," said one of her customers, who declined to give his name. "It needs something, but I don't know about SoDo."

    "SoDo doesn't turn me on," said neon artist Kevin Russell, who has a sign shop there. But he says he can accept the change -- especially if it comes with rent subsidies to ensure artists can stay in the district.

    In addition to urban American neighborhoods, SoDo is the name of an Ethiopian farming town.

    "It's a good fertile area famous for bananas," said Ayalaw Yimam at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

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