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Arts center gains momentum

Plans to move forward in the pursuit of a performing arts center in Federal Way were solidified June 19 when the City Council approved a feasibility study and a business plan for the project.

A professional outside party will conduct the study, which will detail possible performing arts center users and clients. It will also help determine what characteristics should be included in the center and how much it is expected to cost.

"I would characterize this as momentum (for a performing arts center) building in the community," Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell said.

At the City Council meeting, Carrol Clemens of the Federal Way Arts Commission encouraged the council to approve the study, saying the community has waited for quite some time for a performing arts center.

"It's an idea whose time has come," she said.

Joann Piquette, a former Federal Way Arts Commission member, has assisted in heading the group pushing for a performing arts center in Federal Way. She echoed Clemens at the meeting, adding that the feasibility study and business plan are the first steps in securing a performing arts center.

The feasibility study will indicate what characteristics would be reasonable to construct in a performing arts center, she said.

The study along with a business plan are expected to cost between $50,000 and $80,000, depending on which contractor is chosen, Ferrell said. The money has already been secured by the city, but will be reallocated from other previously planned projects, he said.

Three years ago the city began annually setting aside money to use toward updating the Federal Way Arts Commission commission plan. That amount has now reached $50,000 and will instead be used to fund the feasibility study and business plan for a performing arts center in Federal Way, Ferrell said.

The remaining $30,000 was originally allocated in the city's 2006 budget for an improved business plan on how to better utilize the Knutzen Family Theater. However, that money was directed toward the feasibility study and business plan, which seemed to go hand-in-hand with utilization of the theater, Ferrell said.

In the past

Another feasibility study was conducted about 16 years ago at the request of the Federal Way Arts Commission. However, the project was part of a larger endeavor at the time, and nobody made an effort to build a performing arts center following the completion of the study.

The focus now is solely on a performing arts center. Another feasibility study is necessary because most of the data previously gathered on this topic is now outdated, Ferrell said.

"Anything that old would be almost useless at this point," he said.

For the past few months, a group of about 45 people has been meeting, with the support of the city, in an attempt to make progress on a performing arts center in Federal Way.

At its last meeting on June 6, the group had hoped to form committees to begin a capital campaign to raise money for the center. But, after hearing a presentation from the King County cultural services agency 4 Culture, the group realized a feasibility study must be completed before it can begin a capital campaign.

The request for a feasibility study and business plan was heard shortly thereafter by the Parks, Recreation and Public Safety Committee of the City Council, which approved of the study and presented it to the full council.

A demand for a performing arts center in Federal Way seems to be apparent. As of now, the city's role in funding the center is more about bringing together interested parties and approaching the topic in an intelligent and well thought-out way, Ferrell said.

"This is not something the city is just going to cut a check for," he said.

Securing a performing arts center in Federal Way will take time and considerable effort by multiple sectors of the community, he said.

"There needs to be a significant investment from all the sectors for this dream to be realized," he said.

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

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