Quest for arts center plugs along

Federal Way arts enthusiasts received an opportunity to meet with consultants who are conducting the city’s performing arts center feasibility study.

The study will assist the city in determining what type of performance center could be sustained in Federal Way. It will not be a strict outline of what the city will build.

On Oct. 23, team members from C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc., Chicago; LMN Architects, Seattle; and Hyslop and Associates of Minneapolis spoke about how a feasibility study is done, what considerations should be put into the design of a venue in Federal Way, and how to conduct fundraising for such a project.

Mark Erickson, C.H. Johnson vice president, updated the crowd on the actions his company will take to complete the study. The consultants have contacted some performance groups in the city to talk about their needs, Erickson said.

They will define the existing and future transportation links to a performing arts center downtown, a market area and the amount of disposable income Federal Way residents and visitors could expend for performing arts entertainment, he said.

“You’re never going to have exact, precise data that’s going to tell you what (type of performing arts center) you are going to use,” Erickson said.

Design considerations were discussed by LMN Architect employee George Shaw. He stressed the importance of functionality, multi-use flexibility and civic expression. As examples, he referenced Benaroya Hall in Seattle, McCaw Hall in Seattle, and Cannon Center in Memphis — all performing arts centers constructed by LMN Architect.

Benaroya Hall functions as a concert hall, while McCaw Hall can be used for several types of performing arts, Shaw said. A war memorial and park outside Benaroya Hall appeals on a civic level, drawing visitors who wish to eat lunch or take a stroll.

Federal Way’s arts center will need to provide the community and its visitors with a connection to other people and the city, Shaw said.

“At the root of (performance centers) is the experience these buildings provide,” he said.

Once it is decided if the city can support a performing arts center, and its uses and design are planned, fundraising is needed to complete the project.

David Hyslop, of Hyslop and Associates, gave the audience some tips on fundraising and sustaining a performance center.

Building a performing arts center in the suburbs can work, despite popular belief that this kind of venue only thrives in metropolitan cities, Hyslop said. He advised those involved in a capital campaign to invest time in possible donors, instead of calling them only to request funds.

People who donate to performing arts centers want to see their money making a difference, Hyslop said. Realistically, those involved in the campaign should not expect to receive a handful of large donations; they will more likely rely on multiple donors making small and large contributions, he said.

Many successful performing arts centers have at least a few dedicated performance groups who commit themselves to that center, Hyslop said. A venue in Federal Way ought to have a niche, rather than appeal to all performance groups, he said. He assured the audience that although he believes a performing arts center will strive in Federal Way, the feasibility study will better predict that possibility.

“The building cannot be everything for everyone, or it will end up as nothing for nobody,” Hyslop said.

Federal Way resident Peter Townsend asked the consultants and City Manager Neal Beets if they had arrived at a dollar figure that would be needed to build a performing arts center in Federal Way. The study is in its early stages and a specific number cannot be determined until more research has been completed, consultants said.

“We wouldn’t undertake this project if we didn’t think we could afford another amenity in Federal Way,” Beets said.

Federal Way could possibly afford a $25 million performing arts center, Beets said. The city may be able to apply for state assistance, in a estimated amount of $8 million or $9 million, he said. It may also contribute another $8 million to $10 million, he said.

Naming rights, private donors and bonds are some other preliminary funding ideas, Beets said. The exact dollar amounts Beets listed as needed for the project, available from the state and supplied by the city, are only rough estimates, Beets stressed.

The Federal Way City Council will make the ultimate decision as to whether a center should be funded and how much the city could afford to spend on it, Beets said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565.

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