Citizens weigh in on PACC idea
By GREG ALLMAIN
Federal Way Mirror reporter
March 6, 2013 · Updated 3:44 PM
As the city council readies for a lengthy discussion this weekend about the proposed Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC), a number of citizens took to the podium during the council's March 5 meeting to voice their support or opposition to the idea.
The majority of commenters were in favor.
"I just wanted to show my support for the performing arts and conference center," said Federal Way resident Ryan Miller, who said he wanted to make sure the conference center side of the project isn't wholly ignored. "I feel it's important for this area to have the conference center too, along with the performing arts center. To bring in big groups, like societies, associations, different types of meetings that our hotels in this area can't support."
Miller continued, saying that Federal Way should be an ideal destination because of its positioning in the region.
"We have to have the meeting room space available to bring in groups and pull them from the Seattle area, and from the Tacoma area, and bring them to the Federal Way area," he said. "(We need) to give them that idea of you don't have to be in the big city to have a great time, and everything like that."
Federal Way arts commission member Keith Livingston also voiced his support for the project, saying the time for the PACC is now.
"You've been working very hard, 19 years, from the time this was basically a plan that started as part of the arts commission, to now," Livingston said. "You have a long history of trying to get this thing off the ground, and you're finally positioned to finally do so."
Livingston continued, saying a project like the PACC is how a city like Federal Way can increase its influence in the region.
"(This is) how you really grow a city. It's very important that we have a facility that will attract economic development, attract conferences, help with our hotels and management, help bring people to our parks," he said. "If it's built, it brings value to the city. It's very important that we do these types of things in our planning and development."
The arts commission member closed by asking the council and those present at the meeting to envision Federal Way 10 years from now — with the PACC, and without the PACC.
"As you go through that picture in your mind, we'd much rather have (the PACC) be a part of the city's future. If we don't, we just keep the status quo, it doesn't attract business, it doesn't attract new residents, and it doesn't help the city grow," he said.
The one voice in opposition to the PACC was longtime Federal Way resident Norma Blanchard. For Blanchard, an ambitious and expensive project like the PACC seems ill advised in these times, she said.
"We don't need that right now. Not with all the people that are unemployed. How many unemployed people do we have in Federal Way right now? How many are just working for minimum wage, and have lost their homes, or are losing them?" she asked. "Meanwhile…we're going to spend $31 million to build a performing arts center, with $200,000 (needed) to support it yearly. That's a plus?"
Blanchard continued, citing the fact the city has conceded that some major renovations need to be performed downtown in regards to the infrastructure in that part of the city.
"And then the sewers and the roads are going to be done. There's a lot of hidden things that we don't know that it's going to cost more than that. I'd like to know the whole picture, not just half, not just the pretty pictures," she said. "Because there's costs hidden there that we don't know."
"Let's hold off on this," she concluded.
Andrew Nix, who manages two Starbucks stores in Federal Way, said he supports the PACC, mostly because he believes it will be an economic boon to the city, similar to the King County Aquatic Center.
"I absolutely support this idea, I think it's a great idea. The angle I want to take is that of business, of money and tax revenue," he said. "That's the lifeblood of this city, of any city. Every time that one of our current venues, like the aquatic center…host an event…my business makes a lot of money, and I get to employ those people…and pay taxes, and the city gets a piece of that."
One of the stores Nix manages is on 320th Street near the site of the proposed PACC on 20th Avenue South. Building something new there would be a plus to the somewhat dilapidated area next to the Federal Way Transit Center, he said.
"It would certainly give a facelift to an area of the city that needs a facelift, that needs sewer treatment, that needs better roads, and personally, I think it's something we'd be proud of," he said. "This has opportunity written all over it, for me, for my company, and for my employees. I applaud this idea, and I think it shows great leadership and vision."
(Pictured above: McIntyre Hall, a performance and conference center in Mt. Vernon, is seen as an example of the kind of facility Federal Way is considering)
• In 2010, the city bought the 4-acre site on 20th Avenue South with a state grant worth $5 million. As a condition, the PACC must be built within 10 years, or the city must pay back the money with interest.
• Seattle-based developer Lorax Partners estimates that a 700-seat arts center with a 3,000-square-foot conference space could cost about $31.7 million. Preliminary designs include green landscapes and up to 170 parking spots, along with an option to build a hotel.
• The completed project may require a city subsidy of up to $200,000 a year.
• The Federal Way City Council will discuss the future of the PACC during its annual retreat, which runs 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. March 9 at Federal Way Courtyard by Marriott, 31910 Gateway Center Blvd. S.
• The city has posted a webpage on the PACC that provides financial memos and scenarios for construction. There is also a link to a memo Skip Priest wrote more than 16 years ago about downtown development in Federal Way. Visit www.cityoffederalway.com/pacc.
Contact Federal Way Mirror reporter Greg Allmain at email@example.com or 253-925-5565 ext. 5054.