The loss of the Northwest Innovation Works methanol plant left some to wonder what will become of the Tacoma Tideflats, and whether Tacoma remains an industrial city, or is perched on the cusp of a different identity.

To help guide the discussion, the City of Tacoma and Port of Tacoma are preparing to hire a consultant and enter into negotiations for an interlocal agreement to develop a subarea plan for the Tacoma Tideflats.

Development of the subarea plan will follow the decision by Northwest Innovation Works to abandon plans for a methanol plant on the former Kaiser site in the Tacoma Tideflats. Although Northwest Innovation Works cited environmental contamination as the reason for leaving the Tacoma Tideflats project behind, many assumed it abandoned the project at least partially as a result of unexpected public opposition to the plant.

According to the City of Tacoma, the subarea plan will “take a holistic view” of the tideflats area, and will result in a plan that is more detailed, focused plan than the overall city Comprehensive Plan.

The Comprehensive Plan is the planning document, required under the state Growth Management Act, that guides how the City of Tacoma will grow over the coming decades. It contains policies and guidelines for where commercial, industrial, residential, and agricultural growth will be directed, what types of capital facilities will be built to serve the needs of businesses and residents, and how the growing city will manage traffic.

The subarea plan will complement and supplement the Comprehensive Plan by taking a deeper dive into the Tacoma Tideflats specifically.