Dairy to be transformed

The makeover of downtown's old Foremost Dairy has begun, but it's not clear if tenants are coming.

The owners are “really excited about breaking the news,” commercial broker Laura Fox said recently. “It’s not going to be industrial. Office, maybe some retail, but that depends on who the tenants are.”

The building at 2415 Pacific Ave., across from the Elephant Car Wash, is owned by Henry Liebman. His Seattle-based company, American Life Inc., solicits potential immigrant investors through a federal program to encourage job creation through foreign investment.

Demolition work has been going on for a few weeks. American Life Inc.’s website lists the dairy building as 100 percent leased, but a company representative wouldn’t provide more details.

“We’ve got a real story to tell and it’ll be a really nice project and Tacoma will be proud of it,” American Life spokesman Don Ayers said last week. Ayers said an announcement about tenants will come soon, after a lease is signed.

The Immigrant Investor Pilot Program allows foreigners and their families a year to gain permanent U.S. residency by investing at least $1 million in a commercial venture that directly creates at least 10 jobs.

Or, investors can earn residency with as little as $500,000 and don’t have to start a business that creates the jobs directly in a designated regional centers like Tacoma. There investors may rely on indirect employment to satisfy the jobs requirement.

In some cases, the investment can simply construct or renovate a building – to make usable space for at least 10 direct or indirect jobs.

Liebman did not return an e-mail request for comment Tuesday.

He bought the Foremost building for about $3 million in 2008. It includes most of the block, excluding the mid-block 1912 Hotel Merkle.

The City of Tacoma doesn’t have any current applications for building permits at the 83-year-old former milk and ice cream factory. But in 2008, a building permit application filed with the city indicated using two upper floors and basement as office and retail space. The design calls for a modernization of the exterior with a glass corner entrance that peaks higher than the building’s roof does now.

The building is not listed on any historic registers.

Bob Levin, private capital division manager for City of Tacoma, said he didn’t have information about potential tenants. Levin said the work on the dairy building would be the first in the city under the foreign investment program.

“It’s encouraging to find that there’s someone wiling to make some investment, and capable of making investments,” Levin said Monday.