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Crystal Palace: Group advocates for Federal Way labor pool

Conceptual drawing of the proposed Crystal Palace. ARCADD, an architecture firm based in West Newton, Mass., was selected by the Federal Way City Council to move forward on a proposed “Crystal Palace” design at the vacant parking lot on 20th Avenue South. - Courtesy photo
Conceptual drawing of the proposed Crystal Palace. ARCADD, an architecture firm based in West Newton, Mass., was selected by the Federal Way City Council to move forward on a proposed “Crystal Palace” design at the vacant parking lot on 20th Avenue South.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Even though the Crystal Palace project is still in its infancy, one group is already thinking ahead. Working Washington is trying to make sure that local workers will be involved in the ambitious project for Federal Way’s downtown.

Amelia Vassar and Mia Franklin, representatives of Working Washington, attended the Federal Way City Council’s Oct. 4 meeting. They had some suggestions on how to ensure the local labor pool is tapped, if and when construction begins on the proposed Crystal Palace project. The project is slated for the 4.1-acre AMC Theatres site on 20th Avenue South, near the transit center.

Vassar said the council should consider a local hiring agreement, especially as the council moves toward the sale of the land to Boston-based developer ARCAAD.

“I know both the city council and the developers expressed interest in hiring locally,” she said. “However, one of the concerns we have is that…once that sale goes through, the city will not be in any type of position to enforce a local hiring commitment.”

Vassar continued, saying history is guiding Working Washington’s suggestions to the council.

“As history has shown, local hiring commitments are not always honored by contractors once the sale of the land has gone through,” she said. “We really insist that local hiring be part of the negotiations for the sale of the land.”

Using local workers would improve the community’s perception of the Crystal Palace project, Vassar said. If local workers are guaranteed to be hired, then some of the negative backlash of the innovative project would possibly dissipate, she noted.

Mia Franklin read a prepared letter to the council, outlining a hierarchy of hiring for the proposed project.

“Establish a local hiring plan, including goals for local hiring,” she read.

“This plan should explicitly identify goals for hiring from the following populations in the following order: Unemployed and/or economically disadvantaged workers currently residing in Federal Way. Two: unemployed and/or economically disadvantaged workers from South King County, including South Seattle neighborhoods, Renton, Tukwila, SeaTac, Des Moines, Kent and Auburn.”

Franklin added that the application and hiring process should be “transparent,” and that the recruitment process should be heavily focused on Federal Way and the surrounding South King County communities.

Working Washington suggested that the contractors report their hiring to the city on a quarterly basis for the duration of the project.

“Again, we are happy to see Federal Way explore the development of the Crystal Palace,” Franklin said.

“We hope by these actions, the city can ensure the residents of Federal Way and South King County have a fair chance at the jobs created by this investment.”

Background information

ARCADD, an architecture firm based in West Newton, Mass., was selected by the Federal Way City Council to move forward on a proposed “Crystal Palace” design at the vacant parking lot on 20th Avenue South. During the council’s July 19 meeting, ARCADD president Dr. Hisham Ashkouri presented an ambitious design of flowing metal and glass structures.

The preliminary design would include approximately 500 residential units, 12,000 square feet of office and retail space; 50,000 square feet of recreation, cinema, restaurant and entertainment space; and 75,000 square feet of the “crystal palace” space. It also would have an underground parking structure and a large but undefined amount of public open space.

Ashkouri said part of the plan would be to complement the proposed performing arts and civic center slated to be built downtown on 20th Avenue South near the Federal Way Transit Center.

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