On Apr. 30 the front page of the News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) carried this piece about an ad hoc committee of 11 persons, nine of whom are anonymous, that hopes to build a privately funded "Tower of Peace" in downtown Tacoma.  --  Insurance man Marty Stair is envisioning "a tower that inspires humanity to seek peace."  --  No peace organizations are involved; Stair and Tacoma councilmember Kevin Phelps "say that’s because they don’t want the project to become political," Jason Hagey reported.  --  As for the article's title, "The Eiffel Tower Was Once Called Folly, Too," it's true that the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 for the Exposition Universelle, was opposed by many of the leading writers of the day, including Maupassant, Leconte de Lisle, and Alexandre Dumas fils.  --  Maupassant once said that though he didn't much like the food it served, he dined frequently at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower because "it's the only place in Paris where I don't have to see it."  --  UFPPC discussed this project briefly at its May 5 meeting; members are urged to reflect upon the question of what attitude UFPPC should take toward the initiative, if any....



By Jason Hagey

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 30, 2005
Page A01


[PHOTO CAPTION: This architect’s rendering shows the first idea for a spire in Tacoma. It could turn out much different.]


“Aspire to World Peace.” The words are printed across the bottom of an architectural drawing of Tacoma’s stalled spire project, a dramatic 420-foot glass and steel tower once envisioned to rise up beside the city’s new convention center.

Marty Stair, a Tacoma insurance man, keeps the drawing tucked away in his downtown office, serving both as a reminder of what might have been and inspiration for what he believes might still be: a Tower of Peace soaring into the city’s skyline.

Such a tower would not only fulfill the promise of the original spire by providing Tacoma with an impressive new landmark, but linking the icon to the concept of peace would also instill it with a purpose beyond architecture, aesthetics or even civic pride, supporters say.

“This is about human beings,” Stair said. “A tower that inspires humanity to seek peace.”

Stair, 48, began working to revive the spire a year and a half ago, when public opinion turned against it and its $7 million price tag, much of it destined to be publicly financed.

“I was just moved to come up with a concept to bring this community together,” Stair said.

Stair and City Councilman Kevin Phelps formed an ad hoc committee of 11, the rest of whom wish to stay anonymous. They have quietly come up with the broad outlines for the new peace spire, which they believe could be a monument unlike anything in the West, perhaps in the country.


The group is using the original spire as the starting point, but they foresee adding several elements, such as a reflecting pond, bronze statues of children playing, a peace wall or handprints from children around the world with the word “peace” written in many languages.

Seven pieces of art -- one for every continent -- might hang inside the spire where visitors who ride the elevator to the top could see them.

None of the ideas is final, the men said.

“We want it to be inclusive,” Stair said. “Tacoma has to feel this is their monument, feel proud of it. It’s an opportunity to create a new image.”

Phelps imagines something that would create for visitors a lasting, moving experience, similar to the feeling he recently experienced at Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan.

Unlike the previous spire project, the peace tower would be privately funded, the men said.

The cost could climb as high as $14 million, with the money coming from donations from individuals and private foundations.

The City of Tacoma would need to provide the land, and perhaps take on some of the operating and maintenance costs, Phelps said.

Stair has been sharing his vision for months with community and business leaders. So far, the reaction has been positive, he said.

The group has hired a professional survey company to help gauge public interest. They plan to start with a poll of 30 to 50 community leaders.

If the response is encouraging, they want to broaden the survey and solicit opinions from 400 residents.

Who will pay?

Architect Wyn Bielaska, designer of the spire, is delighted about the renewed discussion.

He said the tower was always intended to be part of the design of the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center. Even though the center is finished, it would still be possible to integrate the tower into the structure, he said.

“I’m anxious,” Bielaska said. “I love that project.”

Council members, who would have to approve the donation of public property, are more skeptical.

“I’d rather see them build a Boys & Girls Club as a monument,” Councilman Mike Lonergan said.

Councilman Tom Stenger said he wants to know why private individuals would be willing to pay for a peace spire, especially when there are other worthy causes.

“I guess I’m going to look a gift horse in the mouth,” Stenger said.

Mayor Bill Baarsma said he thinks it’s important to include the “peace community” in the discussion, something he said has yet to happen.

Sallie Shawl, active in two anti-war organizations -- United for Peace of Pierce County and People for Peace, Justice, and Healing -- said she hasn’t heard anything about the peace spire.

Stair and Phelps say that’s because they don’t want the project to become political. The project isn’t about current events, the war in Iraq or the military, they said.

“We want this to be really inclusive,” Phelps said. “Let a person form in their own mind what the concept of peace is.”

“No doubt it’s a grand vision,” he said.

“I think we need a big idea for Tacoma,” Stair said. “Tacoma’s a great place.”

--Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542

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