Downtown high-rises on the horizon


The Mirror

The city and public made it clear that a sense of community is essential to whichever urban mixed-use project replaces the former AMC Theater.

The site, located near the transit center on 23rd Avenue South, has attracted two contract finalists: United Properties, a Vancouver, B.C.-based firm, and Seattle-based Williams & Dame/Alpert Capital.

At a public meeting June 21, the companies presented projects that had similar goals, but slightly different ways in reaching those goals. Both proposed projects feature multiple high-rise buildings, residential housing, open space, a central attraction and parking, commercial, office and retail space.


United Properties introduced "Symphony" to the council and audience with a visual of what the final project would like look.

Two high-rise buildings would border South 316th Street. One would border 21st Avenue South and another would border 20th Avenue South. Centered in the middle of the four buildings would be a park.

"Symphony speaks for itself, orchestrating a vibrant, downtown community," Victor Setton of United Properties said.

United Properties envisions Symphony as a collection of four high-rise buildings focused around a park that would be dedicated to Federal Way. Each of the four buildings would be designated as mixed-use with both business and residential purposes.

The towers, reaching heights of 22 stories, would offer affordable housing to multiple income levels. Apartments, town homes and condominiums were all included in the proposal. Between the four buildings, 150 apartments, 31 town homes and 245 condominiums and penthouses, all ranging in size from 550 square feet to 2,000 square feet, would be available for rent or purchase.

A variety of cafes, restaurants and service-oriented retail would open onto both the park and South 316th Street.

Symphony Park would serve as the main attraction in this urban mixed-use development. United Proposal imagines this 1-acre space to be a place where the Federal Way Farmers Market would conduct business. A water feature, play area and day care center for children would also be available in and near the park.

A large parking facility was detailed as part of the project as well. The parking garage would accommodate 1,100 vehicles in a two-and-a-half level subterranean garage.

The design also allowed for commercial and office space. United Properties can imagine this space being ideal for the Federal Way School District or Highline Community College, Setton said.

The total cost for this project would be $235 million.

Federal Way resident David Kaplan said he was impressed with the proposed project, but wondered if Federal Way was ready to handle a project that looks like it belongs in Bellevue. He urged the City Council to consider who would rent or buy the residential housing proposed in the United Properties plan.

City Council member Linda Kochmar was concerned with the building process.

United Properties plans on using a precast concrete construction system. This method would allow for the project to be completed faster while still ensuring safety, Setton said. Using this method would cut in half the time dedicated to building the skyscrapers, he said. It is also more environmentally friendly because it is lighter and easier to transport, he said.

This system would also allow the builder to dodge some inflation costs while finishing the project quicker.

Steel Lake Village

Williams & Dame/Alpert Capital reminded the city that the firm has experience in operating as part of public/private partnerships.

Spencer Alpert of Williams & Dame/Alpert Capital also stressed that his company has completed similar projects, specifically that of the Pearl District in Portland, Ore., and makes it a point to finish on budget.

Steel Lake Village would feature high-rise buildings. However, with the exception of one 20-story building, they would be approximately half as tall as those of the proposed Symphony project. Pedestrian-friendly corridors would traverse through the village from east to west. Vehicles would also be able to cross through the village from north to south using South 316th Street and 23rd Avenue South.

Steel Lake Village would offer 500 housing units. However, they would primarily be condominiums. The average condominium size is proposed to be 930 square feet and floor plans would range from one bedroom for singles to large units for families. Views of the Puget Sound, Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier would be available.

The main attraction of Steel Lake Village would be its two-level theater. It would draw crowds and also be available for personal use, Alpert said.

In putting together a proposal, Williams & Dame/Alpert Capital wanted to encourage the use of the city's transit system. Like United Properties, the firm also proposed a parking garage, but only a total of 800 stalls would be constructed. Of those, 300 would be allocated to residents of Steel Lake Village.

The firm hopes to attract retailers and restaurants such as Banana Republic, J. Crew, Gap and the Cheesecake Factory to fill its 100,000 square feet of retail space. Unlike Symphony, retailers would be a key feature in each of the project's four high-rise buildings.

Like United Properties, Williams & Dame/Alpert Capital would also like to see Highline Community College or the Federal Way School District housed in its two to four floors of office and commercial space.

The total cost for this project would be $350 million.

Kaplan worried that mixing pedestrians and vehicles at the center of the project would not be desirable.

"The project has no sense of community," Federal Way resident Sandy Petitt said at the meeting.

Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell agreed.

"What we've (the city) talked about is a center concept," he said.

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

To learn more about the proposals, visit

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