Tacoma seeing population, construction boom, too

TACOMA, Wash. — With Seattle getting more crowded and more expensive, many people are moving south.

Pierce County is seeing a population boom, including cities like Bonney Lake, which is seeing a 31% increase.

And Tacoma residents are seeing services they have never had before — services like Uber and Uber Eats.

“All day -- we have Uber all day,” Sanchez said.

She is talking about the people with their little black bags -- instead of passengers, they pick up food.

Uber Eats went online in February and the hunger for the food delivery service is a sign of Tacoma`s growth.

“We are surprised, sometimes when we get the order we are, like, just a side of french fries, just a soda, just a milkshake,” employee Beatriz Sanchez said.

That’s right -- some customers are ordering just soda through Uber Eats.

“It was a way for me to earn money and then it became addicting,” Uber Eats driver Elaine Johnson said.

Johnson is a grandmother who now works for Uber Eats part-time.

Just a few minutes after she logs on, Johnson gets her first order

The drop-off takes us to central Tacoma, where Sasha Tinsley is styling her friend Khalia Bentson`s hair.

And in case you are wondering, they ordered more than just soda.

For these young moms, the convenience of the new services reflects the new way of life here.

“I do love it, it`s convenient and I have two kids and my husband is a realtor and sometimes we don`t have the time so this is what we do,” Bentson said.

Bentson`s family makes a living doing real estate. The Tinsleys are techies.

“There are more tech people working here now; my husband actually owns his own software company,” Sasha Tinsley said.

The affordability is one of the things they love about Tacoma. They aren’t alone.

By 2019, about 4,500 new apartments units will be created in Pierce County, according to Dupre + Scott. That would be a record for the last 25 years.

“The highest rate of construction for apartments in the entire United States, so there is a big backlog of apartment permits that are coming along as well,” Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.

The construction boom also requires amenities to grow with it.

“Really good public schools, a great park system, great recreation,” Strickland said.

Strickland says more people are discovering there is more to Tacoma than what you see from I-5.

“What I want to be remembered for is the mayor who had the opportunity to really turn around people`s perception of the city,” Strickland said.

That change of perception is not only happening for newcomers but also for longtime residents like Elaine Johnson.

“Try to grow with it, you know? Things aren't cheap here, OK. Maybe it`s not as high as Seattle, but it`s not cheap,” Johnson said.

Working for Uber is her way of keeping up.

In 2015, about 1,200 people applied to be Uber drivers in Tacoma and in 2016 that number tripled to 3,400 drivers. And this year is on schedule to surpass that.

“However many drivers they have, there is still plenty room for everybody,” Johnson said.

And people over at Patty`s Burger say keep the orders coming.

“Hopefully more business for everybody, we hope to be here in 10 more years,” Sanchez said.

When it comes to residential building permits in Tacoma, the city issued 156 permits in 2015. That number doubled in 2016 to 328 permits.