Tacoma Mall Green Infrastructure Planning

Equity in the Urban Forest: A Sustainable Model for Green Regional Growth in Tacoma’s Tacoma Mall Neighborhood.

Funds for this project provided by the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program, administered through the State of Washington Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program.

The City of Tacoma and local partners are focusing tree planting and water quality improvement efforts on the Tacoma Mall neighborhood.  Research shows a direct correlation between healthy tree canopy cover and access to green space in a neighborhood having positive health outcomes for the community.  In recognition of this impact trees and green spaces have on community health, the City of Tacoma adopted a citywide tree canopy cover goal of 30% by 2030.

In the 601-acre Tacoma Mall neighborhood, however, green spaces are lacking.  There is only a 9.5% tree canopy, about 1% of the land area is park space, and 70% of the land area is concrete and buildings (and other impervious surfaces). Those impervious surfaces increase flooding and carry polluted rain runoff from streets, buildings, and parking lots straight into our stormwater system untreated, leading to water pollution in the Puget Sound. 

The City of Tacoma acknowledges that the benefits of trees and parks are not spread evenly across the city. This project is an effort to include community members in projects that can increase trees and improve walking routes, while also improving water quality and reducing flooding.  An analysis of community impacts has concluded that people who live in the Tacoma Mall neighborhood have a shorter life expectancy than the county average, and 31% of residents live in poverty - triple the rate of Pierce County.  The Tacoma Mall neighborhood is expected to be one of the Puget Sound Region’s most dense urban centers in the coming years. 

Current work in the Tacoma Mall area includes a street improvement project that will replace impervious streets with pervious surfaces and will add sidewalks and curbs on select streets.  In the upcoming year, there will also be a number of opportunities for community members to get involved in tree selection and improved access to free and reduced cost trees. This project aims to expand tree canopy and Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) to reduce stormwater pollution and flooding (through improved water infiltration to the South Tacoma Aquifer), improve air quality, and cool the urban heat island – all actions centered around desired positive impacts on community health.

This project, built around a concerted community engagement effort, will create a roadmap to achieve exponential benefits across the neighborhood, city, and act as a template for smart growth across the region. The project plan includes a broad range of urban design, housing, land use, environmental, economic development, neighborhood, and transportation actions including $150 million in capital investments over 20 years, installation of GSI elements, and expansion of tree canopy through planting of 300 trees on a roadway improvement project, 100 trees on public lands, 100 trees along residential right-of-way, and 100 trees on residential property (through partner plantings).

 

For updated information on how community members in this part of the city can participate in tree planting and neighborhood planning, please visit: www.treesfortacoma.org

 

To read the full Tacoma Mall Subarea Plan developed through several years of community engagement, visit www.cityoftacoma.org/tacomamallplanFor more information on the Madison District Green Infrastructure Project, visit www.cityoftacoma.org/gsi.