Robinson Noble Moves “Uptown”

Last week, Robinson Noble moved our Tacoma office “uptown” by making the big jump to downtown. Our new address is: 2105 South C Street, Tacoma, WA 98402. The office is now in the Brewery District of downtown (perfect for a bunch of geologists), one of the up and coming areas of the city. (BTW, my reference to uptown should not be confused with University Place, also known as UP-town, which according to the Urban Slang Dictionary, is “short for University Place, a totally badass little city of about 45000 right to the South of Tacoma, Washington. It’s used somewhat ironically as ghetto slang, since UP is an affluent suburban community.” Our old office, on Huson Street, was only two blocks east of University Place. So indeed, we moved away from UP-town as well as moving uptown.)

Robinson Noble's new office prior to tenant improvements.

Robinson Noble’s new office on June 24th,  prior to building any tenant improvements.

In the 68-year history of the firm, this is the eighth Robinson Noble office in the Tacoma area. I personally have worked in five Through each of its moves, the company has moved progressively north and closer to the heart of Tacoma, finally now to be in the downtown.

The firm started in John Robinson’s basement in Lakewood (then unincorporated Pierce County), but after 25 years, in 1972,  John Noble, got tired of the basement life, asked for and was granted shareholder status in the firm, renamed the firm from Robinson & Roberts to Robinson & Noble, and promptly moved the company out of the basement to a small above-ground office near Robinson’s house.

Later, after a brief stay in yet another small Lakewood office, the company moved back into a basement in 1980. This one, a daylight basement, was finally in Tacoma, though just barely. It was located on Orchard Street, literally on the Tacoma side of the Tacoma-Lakewood boundary (so close to the boundary line, in fact, that we thought we were in Lakewood and didn’t pay Tacoma B&O taxes  – that is until a City tax auditor came a calling, but that is another story). This first Orchard Street office was the home of the company when I joined the firm in 1985. My memory of it was that it was dark and dank, and had awful green-colored carpet. The courtyard outside the office regularly flooded in the winter, and we were the savior of of the other tenants sharing the courtyard by pulling out our field pumps to clear remove Lake Noble (as us peons referred to it).

When the basement became too dank, and we needed a bit more room, John moved us upstairs in the same building. This new office provided a little more space and a lot more natural light. The space only lasted several years, and in 1997, we moved about three blocks further north into Tacoma, though still on Orchard Street. This 3rd Orchard Street office included an entire small office building that, I think, was designed for dental or medical offices. Important to us was the storage space downstairs for files, field equipment, and our small soils and water lab.

After Robinson Noble purchased Saltbush Environmental in 2003, we gained not only new staff but new equipment, and the office on Orchard Street was too small. We looked for a new place with a combination of office and warehouse space. We settled on our former office on Huson Street, several miles further north but only one block off Orchard Street. We designed the interior layout ourselves, which proved that we are not architects.

The Huson office was our home for 10 years and served us well. But earlier this year when we approached the end of the lease, we looked for someplace new. Horizon Partners offered us the third floor of the historic J.E. Aubry Wagons Building and a storage/lab space across the street. Though not much to look at from the outside, I loved the brick walls and wooden beamed ceiling. Besides, I’m a sucker for old buildings. I live in a north Tacoma house built in 1909. Our “new” office building was built in 1905.

After much interior planning (which we did not do ourselves this time) and even longer lease negotiations, we moved the weekend after Thanksgiving and officially took up residence on December 1st.

Robinson Noble's office on December 9th following our move over Thanksgiving.

Robinson Noble’s office on December 9th following our move over Thanksgiving.

If you are in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello. We are across C Street from the Holiday Inn Express, and the Harmon Brewery and UW-Tacoma are to our north across 21st Street. All our other contact information (phone, fax, emails, website, and blog) are unchanged. We will be  hosting an open  house in the new space next May; keep posted for details.

4 thoughts on “Robinson Noble Moves “Uptown”

  1. Actually. I want to modify my previous comment. The first office I worked in was a small two story rectangular business complex on gravelly lake drive across the street from the shopping plaza and Woolworths in September 1974. We were on the second story. One office occupied by john and john and a main room for two staff Donald Balmer and I. It was a small space. My desk was a plank on top of two fire proof filing cabinets and Dons space was the drafting table which was shared by Hans Norbisrath. Then we moved to a house on I think on the corner of Avondale and Gravelly lake drive. Chandler and I often went to the lunch counter at woolworths to get those east coast delicious hot dogs!

    • Thank you for the memories David. I bet we still have the drafting table; there were two at the Huson office before the moved (both unused for drafting of course), though I’ve only seen one post-move (I haven’t checked the lab space for the other). But I’m afraid you plank desk is gone 🙂 However, the two fire-proof filing cabinets remain (and boy, they are heavy, I bet the movers hated them).

      I had little information on the pre-5915 Orchard offices when I put this post together. My only source for information, Mike Krautkramer, is out of town at the Ground Water Expo. Your recollections add a lot to the early days.

      Hope you will get up to see our new space sometime. You are always welcome.

      • If you ever move back to the gravelly lake drive or orchard street – I still have business cards from that era. Ha ha ha!

  2. Previous comment never made it to you. The first office I worked in was 10828 Gravelly Lake Drive SW in September 1974 at Clover Park Professional Square. Then a house on Avondale and 10318 Gravelly Lake Drive SW and then to 5915 Orchard Street W.

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