In 1996, Tacoma’s Asia Pacific Cultural Center was little more than a small office and a dream. In those early days, board meetings were held at restaurants and the small but inspired team dared to envision a facility that could house art displays, culinary courses, tea tasting, cultural education workshops, college and career preparation classes, guest speakers, youth programs and more.
“We had places like the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in Seattle, but not a cultural center,” said Lua Pritchard, the APCC’s executive director since 2010 and board member since the center’s early days, “a place to showcase the people and the cultures of the Asian Pacific people.”
Starting in a repurposed closet at what was then the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Tacoma, the center quickly grew and fulfilled the organizers’ lofty dreams. In 2012, after several moves, the APCC settled in a 10,500-square-foot building at South Park on South Tacoma Way. Still, they kept growing.
The Port’s Local Economic Development Investment Fund provided $5,000 for the business plan in 2017, $10,000 for renderings and sketches in 2018 and $25,000 for architectural design in 2020.
It’s hardly surprising the APCC is bursting at the seams. The AAPI Data U.S. Census Bureau website estimates Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up 8% of Pierce County’s population. The center represents 47 nations and over 50 cultures and describes itself as an “interactive cultural crossroads between local and international communities.”
Today, the APCC is on the cusp of a $9.5 million upgrade that will include renovating its current space while adding a 10,000-square-foot wing. The new facility is projected to open in 2025 and will include galleries, classrooms, an auditorium, office space, a tearoom, gift shop, full commercial kitchen, a library and garden space.
“It’s fantastic,” Pritchard said. “It took a while, but it’s fantastic.”
The state recently approved $1.53 million for the project, but Pritchard says the Port of Tacoma played a huge role in helping the center get to this point. The Port’s Local Economic Development Investment Fund provided $5,000 for the business plan in 2017, $10,000 for renderings and sketches in 2018 and $25,000 for architectural design in 2020.
“The APCC serves as a hub for exchanging and sharing Asian Pacific culture and as a space for cultural communication. We are proud of the APCC’s success here in Tacoma and hope their new space will allow them to expand their programming and reach throughout Pierce County,” said Dick Marzano, Port of Tacoma commission president. “As a center of global trade, the Port of Tacoma embraces relationships with all Asia Pacific cultures, and sees this center as a key link to sharing multicultural perspectives and building welcoming and inclusive communities in our region.”
Pritchard agrees and is eager to see the new center’s impact. “It’s exciting,” she said. “South Tacoma Way will never be the same.”