Downtown forum key to city future

Federal Way officials want to be on the cutting edge of urban planning.

So they want interested developers to bring ideas to the table.

That’s what the Federal Way City Center Redevelopment Workshop is all about. It takes place today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the La Quinta Inn Conference Rooms on 25th Avenue South.

Bankers, developers and other economic stakeholders are stopping by for a city staff presentation. More importantly, the guests will offer feedback on adjustments the city could make to spur development of high-end office space, high-rise condominium buildings and other new features city leaders want in the designated downtown core.

Community Development Department assistant Sandy Lyle, in charge of workshop registration, said a variety of regional business leaders would attend the event, but couldn’t offer names prior to the event.

Councilman Michael Hellickson said he’s waiting for the comments, but doesn’t want the city to compromise the will of Federal Way residents in an attempt to lure development and living-wage jobs.

Hellickson said the city should not kowtow to developers in its mission to reshape downtown, adding that creating a flourishing business environment should be a top priority — but not the only one.

He said incentives such as tax breaks would have to be weighed carefully.

“I want to encourage businesses, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not sure I want to do it at taxpayers’ expense. At what point does everyone have to bring their fair share to the table?” he asked.

Hellickson said he won’t support any development measures that conflict with needed transportation improvements or could compromise public safety.

”How do you build up downtown without creating a worse (traffic) nightmare that we already have? I don’t think we have the answer for that,” he said.

But Councilman Eric Faison, an attorney who practices corporate law and a former Federal Way Planning Commission member, said there are a variety of means to attract new development to breathe life into the vibrant downtown envisioned in the city Comprehensive Plan. That vision includes a city core that is pedestrian friendly, with more parking structures and fewer parking lots. It would also have taller buildings, and a mix of retail, Class A office and residential uses.

”Amongst the council the vision is fairly unanimous,” Faison said. “The debate is, how do we get there?”

Faison said he’s hoping for a strong turnout at the event, but acknowledges the events of Sept. 11 might have soured some businesses on the prospects of expanding into Federal Way, especially with Boeing expected to lay off 30,000 Seattle-area workers by next summer.

Hellickson, an area real-estate agent, questions how effective city regulations aimed at directing downtown development would be, saying he hadn’t seen successes

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