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Live the urban life

Touring the fantasy of the urban lifestyle

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I can’t wait to peek inside Tacoma’s swank condominiums during this weekend’s Tour of Urban Living, a self-guided tour set to take place Oct. 13 and 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In last year’s tour, I remember having a light bulb “Aha!” moment watching the occupants of the top floor of a million-dollar condo project.

Together, the couple entered the elevator with their two Scottish terriers, a carrier with six bottles of wine, and several bags of groceries.

Right then and there, I was sold on condo lifestyle. I could see myself as an empty nester with two lap dogs I’d bestow impossibly clever names upon, bringing up my gourmet fare to prepare and savor in my gourmet kitchen kitted out with Gaggenau and Viking appliances while sipping on an amazing vintage.

Of course, that life is a long way — and several good investments — away from where I currently stand as mother to a 5-year-old who likes to make special stews out of the leaves and flowers in our yard, and with two large and unruly dogs who like to practice the art of trashing yards, hardwoods, and couches.

But I can put that reality behind me as I walk through homes that feature soaring ceilings, massive windows drinking in expansive views of the city I love, and the kinds of fixtures and surfaces that make me quiver with excitement.

The act of walking through the staged homes is a sort of sterilized voyeurism; it’s a glimpse into a private and personal space that has no “person” behind it. I can imagine, or create, the person that fits the space the same way I do walking thorough the IKEA showrooms in my annual pilgrimage there.

But unlike the IKEA showrooms, the spaces lovingly prepared for the Tour of Urban Living feature the best of a city that’s starting to grow out of its scrappy reputation and into a refined new identity.

Since Tacoma’s new identity features an appreciation for world-class art and culture, it’s fitting that many of the condo projects also offer their own spin on cultural amenities. At the Roberson, for example, an open courtyard in the center of the building offers natural light an opportunity to creep into the building, and offers a nod to classical architecture with walkways reminiscent of colonnades that look down into the courtyard.

Architecture and design feature in many of the other projects as well, with artful use of beams and columns, and open plans maximizing compact spaces with clever use of nooks, and natural surfaces often echoing the natural resources of Tacoma on view.

There’s also culture-by-proximity, with most of the homes on the tour mere blocks away from theaters, art museums, cafés, and restaurants, or there’s the odd nod to culture like that found in the Hanna Heights Condominiums, with their concept drawing from the inspiration of classical music, featuring floor plans named after composers.

But then you can also get a sense of the community culture many of the properties are trying to nurture. Many of the properties include gyms, lounges, and public spaces into their design plans. Many nod to the green community emphasizing energy efficiency and sustainable design, like the Walker Condominiums’ reuse of a former apartment building.

In the Roberson, the design was inspired by the neighboring Vintage Y Condominiums, which themselves utilized design and surface elements from the building’s previous incarnation as a YMCA. An entirely new (and not yet complete) building, the Roberson features such green elements as steel beam construction, increased insulation and sound proofing, a sophisticated heating and air conditioning system, nearly 10-foot-high thermal-paned windows and light-reflecting paints so your light bulbs don’t have to work double duty, and a number of other features to help you breathe easy (including a proposed “green roof” — too cool!)

In my own fantasy, I can imagine living there, or in any of the Tour-featured sites I’ll wander through this weekend (go to www.downtowntacomaliving. info to download a map and list of addresses of the featured properties on the tour). But I can also find out what the urban realities are when I quiz the urban dwellers themselves at the invite-only Block Tie Affair that will unite and celebrate the pioneers that settled into urban Tacoma; I can start sketching a picture of what I want to be when I grow up and get ready to settle into my downtown fantasy life.

But really, in my world, the best part of the Tour of Urban Living is, like my fantasies of the perfect lifestyle through cool living, it’s free.

Tour of Urban Living

What: Free, self-guided tour of downtown Tacoma urban housing.

When: Oct. 14 and 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This free, self-guided tour promises to highlight the best that downtown Tacoma has to offer.

Information: Maps of the Tour of Urban Living are currently available via Tour maps will also be available on both days of the event at an information booth inside the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, 1515 Commerce St.


505 Broadway, 505 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.572.9807,

CitySteps, 2100 Yakima Ave, Tacoma, 253.272.2502,

Court 17 Apartments, 1717 Market St., Tacoma, 253.274.9400,

The Esplanade, Preview at 1707 Dock St Tacoma 253.383.1143

Granville Building, 207 Broadway, Tacoma 206.251.1869

Hanna Heights Condominiums, 415 6th Ave, Tacoma 253.405.1099

Lexington Square, 2303 South G St., Tacoma,

McCarver Village, 2365 S Yakima Ct., Tacoma,

Metro City Homes, 2131 S Yakima Ave. Tacoma, 253.302.3792,

Midtown Lofts, preview at 2365 S Yakima Ct., Tacoma, 253.779.9802

One St. Helens, 1 St Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.925.2242

Reverie at Marcato, 1501 Tacoma Ave. S. Tacoma, 253.404.1919,

The Roberson, 708 Market St., Tacoma, 253.284.5702,

Site 4 Foss Waterway 1543 Dock St., Tacoma

Thea’s Landing, 1705 Dock St., Tacoma, 253.572.8432,

Walker Condominiums, 405 6th Ave., Tacoma,

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