Small-Town Comfort and Convenience Attract Newcomers
Susan Messier’s career in television journalism took her to such places as Bluefield, West Virginia, and Erie, Pennsylvania. There were also stops in western Texas and, most recently, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Although she and her husband, Jon, established themselves in each TV market, they also continued to seek out a community in which to put down permanent roots.
“We wanted to find the right fit,” she says.
After a year of research, the Messiers moved into a new home in the South Hill area of Eastern Pierce County. The location was convenient to Susan’s new job at Puyallup’s Good Samaritan Hospital, where she is manager of media relations and publications. Jon Messier is a freelance videographer in the area.
“We’ve always moved because of our jobs,” Susan Messier says, “but this time we moved our jobs around where we wanted to live.”
The Messiers are not alone. More and more people are discovering affordable housing and a great quality of life in Eastern Pierce County. Likewise, more and more businesses are reaping the benefits of a region where growth is steady and opportunities abound.
Mike Cina and his family moved from Tacoma to Puyallup 13 years ago to take advantage of a slower pace of life. He’s seen the once-mostly agricultural area slowly give way to more business and residential development.
“As fast as Puyallup is growing, it’s still a small town in many ways,” he says. “It sounds funny, but namedropping is easy here because everybody knows each other.”
Cina is owner of AustinCina Architects, a Tacoma firm founded in 1953 by John Austin. Within the next year, Cina will relocate the firm to Puyallup. His 12 employees will be based at Meeker’s Landing, a 60,000-square-foot development on Pioneer Way. Cina purchased the former cannery and cold-storage facility and is converting it into three floors of office and retail space as well as condominiums.
“We’ve kind of wanted to have our offices in an urban setting but not in a major city,” says Cina. “Our business is such that we could be anywhere, but we chose Puyallup. We really like the accessibility along the I-5 corridor.”
Meeker’s Landing is being developed with the help of Offenbecher Commercial, the only full-service commercial real estate broker in Eastern Pierce County. The company moved into another historic Puyallup building, the former Pohlman Corner variety store and restaurant at East Main and South Meridian. Offenbecher Commercial renovated the 1911 building to include executive office suites upstairs.
Ethan Offenbecher, company vice president, grew up in South Hill and has witnessed the area’s growth firsthand. Part of Eastern Pierce County is now considered a bedroom community for those working in Tacoma and Seattle.
“In the past five years or so, we’ve seen a lot of commercial growth,” he says. “There’s been a good balance of quality of life versus development. We’ve seen an emphasis on new parks and new schools to help offset the commercial growth.”
While Puyallup enjoys a growth spurt, new homes are also going up in Orting and other communities such as Graham and Sumner, says Dolores Kelley, office manager for custom builder Ambrosia Homes.
“It’s very busy right now,” says Kelley, a 30-year resident of the county. “The communities here are really nice and affordable. Families also like the area because of the school districts.”
Susan Messier adds that the mild climate and access to outdoor amenities, such as Mount Rainier, make Eastern Pierce County an ideal place to settle down.
“We’re not moving again,” she says. “We’re staying right here.”