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Federal Way puts $750,000 toward future civic center

In a 6-1 vote Feb. 1, the Federal Way City Council appropriated $750,000 to be used toward identifying design options for a proposed civic center.

Councilman Jim Ferrell issued the dissenting vote. The money will be transferred from the Downtown Redevelopment Fund to the newly created City Facilities Fund/Civic Center Account. Part of the $750,000 will go toward identifying the most appropriate development and operating model for the civic center. Some money will go toward state-required infrastructure improvements near the property.

The city made its largest effort to construct a civic center when it purchased the former Toys "R" Us property, 31510 20th Ave. S., in December. The schematic design is the next step in the journey to construction.

"Now that the property is in hand, we need to find out what is an achievable and market-appropriate design," city spokesman Chris Carrel said.

Components

It is uncertain how all the components will fit together to meet the city's goals for a civic center. A performance hall, conference center and hotel are a must. A 2009 feasibility study performed by Webb Management Services indicated these elements would help make a Federal Way civic center marketable.

A consultant or architecture firm will be hired to develop the schematic design. The design will take into consideration the city's desired components and will establish the scope, conceptual designs, scale and the relationship of the various elements of the project. Cost estimates will accompany the work.

"It's really going to be (about) how those components come together to meet the needs of the community and the local arts organizations," said financial services administrator Bryant Enge.

The schematic design will likely include one or more conceptual designs. The Webb Management study gave city officials an idea of what smaller components — within the performance hall, conference center and hotel — could make a civic center successful in Federal Way.

The suggestions included a performance center with multipurpose space to be used by local art organizations and the community. Backstage dressing rooms and a support area, administrative space and a box office capable of handling on-site ticketing were also appealing features, according to the study.

The conference center should include a lobby to accommodate various functions. Additional space for meetings or stand-alone events is a good idea, according to the study. Parking stalls associated with the conference center are necessary.

A top-notch hotel was suggested. This could be developed in a second phase. The hotel should drive demand and be attached to the conference center, according to the study.

Staff, the mayor and city council will have a better idea of exactly what spaces will be included in a civic center, including size and arrangement, once the schematic design is finished, Enge said.

"As we move through this, we'll get a better idea of how these components come together," he said.

The city council expects an update on the project at its April 19 council meeting, if not sooner. There is no set timeline for what will be done with information once it is gathered and presented to the city.

Federal Way used a $5 million state grant to help purchase the property designated for a civic center. The property was sold to the city for $5.375 million by Pal-Do World Inc. The city has until Dec. 31, 2020, to construct a civic center on the site. If the city fails to do this, it must reimburse the state the $5 million, plus interest.

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