By Kai Curry
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Asia Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) in Tacoma broke ground on a new facility on Sept. 8, significantly called “home,” which will replace their outdated and outgrown structure, at the same location in South Park, Tacoma. The older building will be demolished to accommodate a new Center which will better suit its needs and that of its community.
“It was very exciting working on the logistics of the groundbreaking,” APCC Executive Director Faaluaina (Lua) Pritchard told the Northwest Asian Weekly. “Everyone was excited to hear that we were groundbreaking. Everyone wanted to come…[and] everything came together very nicely.” Pritchard announced the groundbreaking during APCC’s annual luau the week prior, yet the idea had been germinating since at least APCC’s 25th anniversary in 2021, and before.
APCC had been stretching the limits of its quarters for some time.
“With the new building, we will be able to expand and have more space,” Pritchard said. Modifications over the years have proved to be only temporarily commodious, and the current facility is just getting old.
“We have so many activities to produce and provide for the people, but not enough space. Also, the present rooms are not able to accommodate the kinds of activities we need to do to serve the people,” Pritchard explained. There are no offices, for example, and a lot of the staff have had to “make do.” Alterations, renting and leasing space, all of this has “cost more money.” Now, the old will be torn down to make way for the new.
“We’re so happy about the new building. It is designed to fit and accommodate our needs to provide more efficient services for the people.”
In conjunction with Metro Parks Tacoma, and with the help of donations from multiple sources, including private, nonprofit, corporate, and government, a new building—which will occupy the same footprint—will be constructed that meets the needs of APCC and those it serves.
“The new facility will have a full commercial kitchen, unlike now…five classrooms…offices, finally, for staff,” Pritchard proudly listed, “a library…an art gallery…a larger performing arts center.” There will also be a “Hall of Nations,” a gift shop, “a bigger lobby receiving area…a board room, dressing rooms for the stage area, more and bigger bathrooms, [and] more storage spaces.” A lot of this will be possible because the Center will expand vertically—there will be a second floor.
The property that the Center will be on, as of now, will remain park land. Concerned citizens have asked whether the Garry Oak trees on the property will be allowed to stay, and the answer is yes, according to APCC’s website Q&A about the new facility.
“APCC and their consultants have taken great care to ensure no Garry Oaks or ANY mature trees will be removed. They have reconfigured the design plan to fit within the existing center footprint.” Original hopes to include housing in the project have been deemed inadvisable, and the removal of that part of the proposal will save around $28 million off the original estimate, making the total around $9.8 million. “While housing remains a need,” the website says, APCC is “exploring alternative non-park properties to identify opportunities where that need can be addressed in the future.”
The Center is expected to be completed by 2025.
APCC was started in 1996 when community leaders such as Patsy Surh O’Connell recognized a need in Pierce County for a gathering place for the Asian and Pacific Islander population of the area to attend events held at the Center. The new building “will have all the beautiful Asian and Pacific Islander elements and influences represented throughout this space for the community to be proud of and to feel welcomed to gather and meet,” explained the press release on the groundbreaking ceremony. “APCC will be able to expand their culture and arts programming, education and outreach services, youth program, mental health, and add more program offerings for the community such as an Asia Pacific Culinary School and Entrepreneurship program.”
The ceremony on Sept. 8 began with a Parade of Nations and an invocation, followed by a welcome message from president/founder and artist Surh O’Connell, as well as from Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier. Notable attendees and speakers then gave congratulatory remarks, including consul generals of Japan and the Republic of Korea, congressman Derek Kilmer, Commission Asian Pacific American Affairs Executive Director Toshiko Hasegawa, and Asian Counseling Referral Services Executive Director Michael Byun. Food, music, and dancing rounded out an afternoon of celebration. “Thank you for your LOVE, thank you for your HEART!!!” proclaimed the day’s program.
“The significance is we will be able to do more for the community because of more spaces to do it in,” said Pritchard. “Also, it will be built in a cultural manner to fit our activities and programs more efficiently. The building will look like us inside and outside.”
Kai can be reached at email@example.com.