Forterra to work with Hilltop community to shape development of Rite Aid property

September 19, 2019

TACOMA, WA – Today the nonprofit organization Forterra announced that it has launched a community engagement program to shape future development of the Hilltop Rite Aid property in Tacoma.

Forterra purchased the property earlier this month, following conversations with community stakeholders and Tacoma’s elected leaders about how the organization could help address displacement in the neighborhood due to rising costs. Based on community guidance, Forterra intends to develop the property with a mix of housing that is affordable to rent and own, as well as offices for nonprofits and local businesses, and additional resources like community meeting space.

“Our number one goal with this project is to fight displacement of long-time residents and businesses in Hilltop.” said Michelle Connor, Forterra President and CEO. “We’re committed to listening closely to residents as we design this project. We want the development to address the real needs of the community and reflect the neighborhood’s rich history and culture.”

Please see below for statements of support from Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, Chief Executive Officer at The Russell Family Foundation Richard Woo, President & CEO of the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation Kathi Littmann and local community leader Lyle Quasim.

The property—a former Rite Aid building that has been unoccupied for the past six years—sits at the heart of Hilltop and has become a blight. The surrounding community has been looking for an opportunity to reactivate the space and spur positive growth in neighborhood’s business district.

Forterra – in partnership with the Russell Family Foundation and Greater Tacoma Community Foundation – purchased the property from RX Tacoma Investors on September 10. In addition to providing support for the purchase, these partners will be working with Forterra on its pre-development community engagement program. Forterra anticipates announcing additional partners as the project proceeds.

Acquisition of the Hilltop property is part of Forterra’s mission to secure keystone places that are at risk from development and displacement. Since it started in Tacoma thirty years ago, the organization has invested in environmental, social, and economic projects throughout the Puget Sound region. Using skills in community-building, negotiation, real estate, and policy, the organization has protected more than 275,000 acres with a value exceeding $500 million—from wildlands to working farms and forests, city parks, and community and cultural sites. In Tacoma, Forterra’s recent efforts include protecting places like Julia’s Gulch, Mason Gulch, and Swan Creek Park.


“We are proud of the diverse communities in Hilltop – and all across Tacoma – that power our robust economy,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “As our dynamic city continues to evolve and grow, we will continue working with partners locally, regionally and nationally to find sustainable long-term solutions to the housing affordability crisis as well as other shared challenges. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to work with Forterra, and the community, to determine how this property can best support a vibrant area where both residents and businesses thrive.”

“The Russell Family Foundation is committed to partnering with community for a stronger, more vibrant region,” said Richard Woo, Chief Executive Officer at The Russell Family Foundation. “We’re pleased to play a role in this project as we work with the community towards the shared goal of protecting the neighborhood from displacement so that it may thrive for generations to come.”

“When it comes to making a positive impact in our community, we know that we’re stronger together,” said Kathi Littmann, President & CEO, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. “That’s why we are proud to partner with Forterra and the Russell Family Foundation on this project. Our goal is not just to fight displacement in the Hilltop community but also to partner with local residents in shaping a vibrant future for the neighborhood.”

“I know from my work with community in civil rights, public health and social services that no great effort can succeed without the knowledge of those who live and work in the community, itself,” said local community leader Lyle Quasim. “Forterra has already committed to fighting displacement in the Hilltop community. Now the real work will begin as neighborhood residents help inform the project’s vision – how can we best provide housing, affordable space for local businesses, and cultivate the arts and support non-profits?  I can’t wait for the work ahead.”

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