A Rare Look Inside the Coolest Vacant Tacoma Building You’ve Never Noticed

UPDATE: The current property owners are not affiliated with the subjects of the original story.

Sitting a block down from one of Tacoma’s busiest intersections at Sprague and 7th Ave. sits a 105 year old building that, for the last decade, has sat vacant and largely ignored by passersby. Given its prominence and ideal location, it’s hard to believe it’s sat empty for so long. Once you get a look inside, it’s even more surprising.

This building has been a bakery of some sort since 1913 when it sat on the border of what was then Tacoma’s city limits. It was most recently operated by Hostess and known as “The Home of Wonder Bread.” It shut down in 2008 and soon after was purchased with the intention of being torn down to make way for a strip mall.

Those plans were scrapped, and late last month a GoFundMe campaign was started with the bold goal of raising enough money to purchase and rehabilitate the building. The effort is led by Josef Sellers and Kathryn Barlow along with a group of other Tacoma locals.

The building may have been constructed with a function-over-fashion mindset but the bare beams and brick walls of the interior space are the stuff of Pinterest dreams. With over 36,000 square feet of space just off 6th Ave., you’d be hard-pressed to find anything in Tacoma with more potential. The only hurdle is funding. Josef and his group have set a goal of $2.2 million to get the building up to code and suitable for business and residential tenants.

The vision for the building after rehab includes a grocery store, artist spaces, restaurant, and even apartments on the upper level. The building is not without problems but with Josef’s background in construction and remodeling, he’s confident he can wrap his mind around the project.

People in Tacoma often bemoan the loss of historic buildings, especially when they’re replaced by high-rise apartment buildings from foreign investors. There has already been one offer made on the property for this purpose and there will almost certainly be more. This is an opportunity to be part of something home-grown and beneficial to the community. It’s up to you, Tacoma.

Donate to the GoFundMe campaign here.

Follow the project on Facebook and Instagram.

Color photos by Sierra Hartman

Historical photos courtesy of Tacoma Public Library

  1. Tacoma Public Schools will hopefully buy This building for Bryant Montessori Middle School. Students and staff need more space. Why not have a spacious place that promotes Montessori learning. It has shown to be successful. Bryant has the only Montessori Middle School.
    Plus why would we give our money to two individuals who will obviously profit by purchasing the building. We dont need another grocery store or restaurant. Yes we need more housing but not this way. I can only imagine the cost of a rental. How about they find one of the existing properties on hill top and find a way to finance from their pocket.

    1. We are born and raised locals who love our home with all of our hearts and want nothing more than to do what’s best for our community. We know that Jason Lee Middle school has looked into buying the building, but aren’t sure if Bryant Montessori has. Being that the building is over 36,000 square feet and is need of heavy remodeling, it would be difficult for schools to gather the funds for such a large project. We would love to partner with both schools, and see what they think would be best for the kids in the area. Our current idea is a community art center, because lots of schools have had art programs cut, and it will also give kids a place to go after school. We also believe that it would be a perfect place to have affordable housing so that local residents who cannot afford the recent rent hikes can live where they have grown up, and not be restricted to one area. If our campaign is successful we won’t have losses to recoup like a lot of private investors would, so we can keep rent reasonable. We were priced out of our apartments last year, so it is very important to us to keep locals in Tacoma. The most important point is that we want to work with the community to do what’s best. If you want to help in any way, feel free to contact us at savethebakery@gmail.com

  2. Oh I always notice old vacant buildings because I’d love to be able to use them. But if I gave money for this building, I would need to have the use of it for my business.

  3. Or how about it goes back to bread store/bakery? I know the feel good/make $$$ minded want a strip mall or school, but what makes/made Tacoma great is disappearing at an alarming rate….
    Old buildings here in Tacoma, with applicable history, are sadly being dismantled in favor of high-rent businesses that more often than not belly-up in under a year. I understand that it’s highly fashionable lately to turn Tacoma into “Seattle South,” but is it really needed? Tacoma to me will ALWAYS be blue-collar, from the docks to the bakeries….
    Hell, I’ve only lived here for 50 years, not that my opinion counts…lol…

  4. just be honest and say you would like the people of tacoma to buy you a million dollar building. this little detail left out of your beg-a-thon speaks volumes. i was born and raised in tacoma, too, but i’m not asking anyone to give me a piece of it for free.

    1. It greatly saddens us to read such negative misunderstandings. We also understand and identify with the necessity of a healthy skepticism of supposedly charitable causes. Though it appears there are some things you might have missed. The purposes of this campaign are not only to preserve what should be considered an historic landmark but, much more importantly, we want to help keep the local kids off the street with a safe space that encourages creativity while also making it easier for their families to eat a safe, healthy diet. We want to dedicate our lives to helping the community we’ve been raised in to grow and thrive. We can’t imagine anything we’d rather do. Yes, we’re seeking ownership of the property. That is because we too have a healthy skepticism of supposedly charitable organizations. We know what we want to do and we believe we could do it more efficiently than any organization saddled with the same responsibility. Ultimately, we are just a couple of Tacomans who are sick of seeing all of this growth that doesn’t actually benefit the community in any meaningful way. We want to be the change that we seek. But that’s next to impossible without the involvement of the community. We hope we’ve been able to clear some things up regarding our intentions with this campaign. If you have any productive suggestions we are all ears at savethebakery@gmail.com Thank you for your concern.

      1. sure, josef, i have some suggestions.
        first, nowhere do you state that this fund-raiser supports your private ownership of a large building, and this makes you appear dishonest. i’m not alone in pointing this out. yet, you still haven’t modified your go fund me page to state this clearly. that would be the obvious step in clearing up “such negative misunderstandings”.
        second, i like your ideas and i think you should pursue them. however, you need to me more realistic about your goals and time-frame. unless you have rich relative generous enough to underwrite this, nobody is going to buy you a building. perhaps you should talk to the city, and see if there are any available spaces and funding for your proposal. also, look to the private sector. you never know, your project might align with the vision of one of our healthcare organizations.
        and third, you don’t appear to have any experience in running an organization like this, or rehabbing a commercial building. this makes you unqualified to lead this kind of effort, and a very poor investment. i would strongly suggest you align yourself with people who have a proven track record. this will lend your efforts credibility, and allow you to learn in the process.

  5. I wanted to buy this building with two purposes, one as a personal loft space and part of it as a sport fencing club with coach apartment.

  6. It would be great for the Tacoma Waldorf School which presently does not have a permanent location and it could double as a space that provides arts and crafts for the community. I hope that the owners plan to renovate it by having all lead paint, etc removed in a safe way.

    1. A bakery could also be part of the Waldorf school scenario. It would be awesome to bring back bread to this building, perhaps organic sourdoughs this time, small batches.

    2. To follow up with the Waldorf school scenario, it would be great to have an attached bakery and to bring bread back to the building. Organic sourdoughs could be prepared in small batches. There are some awesome bakers in town who could use a commercial kitchen.

  7. Eat Local Pierce County would be happy to speak with you about potential farm-to-table and indoor market ventures. We have many farmer, artisan, and chef connnections. A collaborative food/health/arts/educational/community space sounds like a worthwhile vision!

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