Crystal Way developer misses deadline for downtown site | City explores alternative
By GREG ALLMAIN
Federal Way Mirror reporter
October 4, 2012 · Updated 5:50 PM
Crystal Way developer ARCADD Inc. missed another deadline in its dealings with Federal Way.
After Oct. 2 came and went, the Massachusetts-based company was unable to come up with $150,000 in earnest money as part of the purchase and sale agreement to develop the former AMC Theaters site downtown.
Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest gave an update at the city council meeting Oct. 2, saying he had spent a long time on the phone with Dr. Hisham Ashkouri, the main architect for ARCADD and the man who had created the Crystal Way vision for Federal Way's downtown core.
"I received a communication today, and in fact had a long phone conversation with Dr. Ashkouri, that he was unable to receive the earnest money that we had hoped to have by today," Priest said. "He remains extremely optimistic about the fact that the money will come, but the transfer of money from other countries, is, not surprisingly, a challenge in these times."
Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell minced no words, saying he thinks it's time to "turn the page" on ARCADD.
"My perspective is that, I think at this point, we're eight months past the original hard deadline of February. For me, I sort of feel like it's time to turn the page completely," he said. "I just don't see that it's fruitful to pursue this anymore."
Other council members were not as adamant as Ferrell in the idea of cutting ARCADD loose. Ashkouri had said the $150,000 would be made available sometime in the coming week.
"It certainly does apply pressure to those who may think this is a lock, to get their affairs in order and come to the table in a really meaningful way," council member Roger Freeman said, referencing an alternative plan the city has been developing since last winter. Community and Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty presented that same plan during the Oct. 2 meeting.
"At this point, I'm willing to wait it out a little longer to see what is actually going to come forward," Freeman said.
Council member Linda Kochmar made it clear that Ferrell's sentiments weren't necessarily shared by the rest of the council.
"Recognizing that we're in the middle of a recession, it's difficult to get development moving in the middle of a recession, and we've been trying for a very long time," she said. "I just want to reiterate that we're not closing the door on Mr. Ashkouri yet, because he could still come forward. We're just moving forward on other concepts."
The city's alternative
Beginning last winter, Doherty and city staff had begun working on a number of alternative ideas for the AMC site, with a focus on an open/green space, combined with a mixture of residential and retail businesses.
Doherty elaborated during his presentation to the council on Oct. 2.
"We have come up with a concept, where roughly half the site, about 2 acres, is a public park or plaza, leaving the other half for development on a much smaller scale than we've seen in these previous proposals," he said.
The alternative concept will still revitalize, invigorate and activate that public space, he said, which means "shops, cafes, small stories, and at least a couple of stories to provide some sort of gravitas to the development, but not necessarily high-rise or mid-rise."
Doherty said that if the council moves forward with the city's alternative, a rough timeline would include:
• A site visit for council and city staff sometime this month
• A special session to deliberate more finely the pros and cons of alternatives in November
• Selection of a concept in December
• The issuance of a Request for Proposals for the private development portion of the project in January
Priest reiterated that this alternative design is essentially still in its infancy, and that the idea could be applied to other properties in the downtown area that the city owns.
"There are a number of other locations in downtown, where we can use this concept to market to the private development community," he said. "What we're trying to do is continue to be creative, continue to drive the train. For us to sit back and not pursue the vision doesn't do our citizens service, or meet our own responsibilities."
Contact Federal Way Mirror reporter Greg Allmain at email@example.com or 253-925-5565 ext. 5054.