Business

Proceeds from old city hall may help development

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

A discussion on whether to use some or all of the revenue from the sale of Federal Way’s old city hall building to help boost development downtown has been rolled into an effort to guide future partnerships with private developers.

Some on the City Council suggested using the $2.57 million from the sale of the building — slightly less than the $2.65 million sale price after closing costs and commission — to create a downtown redevelopment fund. The city could draw money to help offset development costs for potential developers, thereby encouraging the kinds of mixed-use growth and revitalization they want to see.

But while council members have expressed a willingness to enter into public-private partnerships to boost development downtown, they agreed they need policies to govern the discussion before an offer is put on the table.

“Where cities have gotten in trouble in the past is when an opportunity comes up and there’s no policy or anything,” said Patrick Doherty, Federal Way’s economic development director. “Public perception is there’s just wheeling and dealing.”

Since getting the go-ahead from the council’s Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee, city officials are developing public-private partnership policies. “The time is now, before we’re faced with a proposal,” Doherty said.

Meanwhile, the Leland Group consulting firm is still working on a lifestyle market study of the city center. The firm presented initial findings to the council in May and is now working on recommendations for the city to encourage development downtown.

Most council members agreed that until they have policies to govern public-private partnerships, it would be premature to decide on revenue sources, like money from the sale of the former city hall.

“We don’t know if we have to do this yet,” Doherty said. “Also, maybe we don’t want to put a number out there.”

Some council members aren’t convinced the city will need incentive money to encourage development downtown, particularly since the Leland Group’s initial findings shed an optimistic light on the revitalization potential.

“Once our story is told, developers might just find us,” Doherty said. “Our story doesn’t get told because we’re second-level. It’s possible if we have a good story, we can market and we won’t have to do the public-private partnership.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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