Federal Way courts developers for performing arts center

The former Toys R
The former Toys R' Us site on 20th Avenue South in Federal Way is slated to become the future home of a performing arts and conference center.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

The Federal Way City Council unanimously approved to seek Request for Proposals (RFP) for a public-private partnership in the quest to build a Performing Arts and Conference Center downtown.

Patrick Doherty, director of economic development, outlined what the city hopes to see back from Lorax and Partners and ARCADD Inc. in their proposals for the project.

“What we will be requesting is a ‘narrative’ of their development proposal, including the project components and sizes, private-sector components, design concept and also an approach to project management,” Doherty told the council at a special meeting July 17. “Also, we want concept plans…we want them to flesh out their concepts more so we can share them with the public and show them to you.”

The city is looking for “a development summary and financing data,” along with a development budget, Doherty said. The most important part of this round of the process would be the partnership between the city and the developers to get the arts center project finally going.

“The most important thing is the business deal — what they are proposing their roles and responsibilities would be, as well as their financial participation. And conversely, what the city’s roles and responsibilities and financial participation would be,” Doherty said. “That’s obviously the nuts and bolts of the issue.”

Lorax submitted three early design concepts, Doherty said. The three concepts are a “Forest Hill Climb,” which would focus on creating a mix of green space and buildings; an “Urban Courtyard” design, which would have a stronger focus on the urban environment at the development site; and finally, an “Urban Landmark/park” design, which would have a large landscaped component as part of the design.

ARCADD submitted one design sketch, which had a feel reminiscent of the Crystal Way design the firm has suggested for the former AMC Theatres site on 20th Avenue South. Along with this, ARCADD also shared a desire for an ambitious project in downtown, in which the Boston-based developer would be the primary designer and builder for the properties the city currently owns.

Federal Way Symphony maestro Brian Davenport shared his thoughts on how the city should proceed, saying that for himself and the symphony, function overrules form in any proposed design for the performance center.

“The point I want to make today is that we don’t need Italian marble, Brazilian mahogany, we don’t need it to be the architectural statement of South King County,” Davenport said. “We focus on what’s inside the building, we look at its functionality. And as long as it’s a decent size, has four walls and a roof that doesn’t leak and a stage, there can be wonderful things inside that building.”

In a public comment, resident Joann Piquette expressed concerns about possible grant funding the city needs for part of the project, prompting councilmember Dini Duclos to press Doherty on whether the timeline to get the response for the proposals could be condensed.

When responding to RFPs, the typical minimum time is two months, Doherty said, noting he would not recommend shortening that time frame.

The council and city are looking at a deadline of Sept. 14 to receive responses from Lorax Partners and ARCADD. Doherty said once the responses are received, the city would take a couple of weeks to review them, and then report back to the council on Oct. 2.

If everything goes according to this time frame, Doherty said the Oct. 2 meeting would also be the one where the council would choose the firm they want for the performing arts center project.

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