News

Performing arts center will survive if slated for mixed use

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

C.H. Johnson Consulting presented its first phase of findings Dec. 5 on the feasibility of a Federal Way performing arts center.

The firm found that a performance hall could survive in Federal Way, but it would need strong anchor tenants and ownership partners.

Furthermore, a mixed-use facility would best serve Federal Way, the consultants found. The facility would need to feature about half the seats as originally expected by a group of roughly 50 arts enthusiasts pushing for the performing arts center.

Surveys and interviews revealed that Federal Way residents attend art performances, but not in the quantities needed to sustain a 1,000- to 1,200-seat facility, said Charles Johnson of C.H. Johnson Consulting.

“An 1,100-seat theater is too big for the marketplace,” Johnson said.

A survey indicated that participants attended 75 Centerstage Theatre Arts Conservatory Inc. performances and 70 Federal Way Symphony performances in the past three years. However, this was not enough to support a large venue and none of the city’s arts groups committed to being anchor tenants, Johnson said.

A successful performing arts center would work best if paired with a conference center, hotel or both, studies revealed. These would draw a more diverse crowd, such as those who wished to use a ballroom for a meeting, he said. They could be offered in one or multiple buildings on the same site, the consulting firm illustrated.

The firm evaluated the Dumas Bay Centre and Knutzen Family Theatre at 3200 SW Dash Point Road during its study as well. Though the Knutzen Family Theatre could be converted into a mixed-use building, Dumas Bay Centre could not, the consultants found.

“We found very few redeeming qualities associated with this venue,” Johnson said.

Instead, prime locations for a mixed-use or performing arts center are the Federal Way School District’s bus barn, 1066 S. 320th St., or a site shared with Truman High School, 31455 28th Ave. S. Both are in the downtown area and easily accessible. The use of either piece of land for a facility would be the only partnership the Federal Way School District could offer, Superintendent Tom Murphy said.

“We have no interest in running a facility,” Murphy said. “That’s too steep of a hill for us to climb.”

Three years ago, the school district proposed a bond that included a performing arts center, but the bond failed, he said. The public thought the school district would be overextending itself by constructing a performing arts center, Murphy said. Without bond money, any funds dedicated to an arts facility would draw away from that needed in classrooms, he said.

C.H. Johnson Consulting will present options for construction, building and operating costs and strategies to pursue Jan. 8 at the Federal Way City Council meeting at City Hall, 33325 8th Ave. S.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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