International district project hits snag

"A controversial project in one of the city's downtown subareas might be scrapped.A $173,000 plan to build a pocket park and trail for the city's international district could fall through because the city might not gain the needed easement from business owners there. The international district is bounded by Pacific Highway South and 18th Avenue South to the west and east and by 312th and 316th streets to the north and south.The Federal Way City Council approved spending $173,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce project in 1998 and '99. But the vote was split, with some council members objecting to funding what they called a project to benefit businesses rather than low-income residents for whom such grants are intended. Project advocates said low-income residents who live nearby would use the park, and that the project would clean up blight and improve pedestrian access in the area. Advocates also said the project fit the federal guidelines for using CDBG funds.Though the project weathered the controversy, chamber and city leaders who are working on it now say it might not fly. The project is in its third incarnation, after two failed attempts to gain easements from property owners in the south end and middle of the district, said city spokesman Derek Matheson.The chamber and city now are seeking an easement in the north end of the district near the Akasaka restaurant from owner Chong Yi. Yi said he favors the project, but wants it to run along the south side of his property, rather than through the middle of it, as the city originally requested. But Yi would need to buy a strip of land there in order to grant the needed easement, and he cannot reach the other property owner.I'm trying my best, Yi said. As much as I can do I'm going to do.Meanwhile, time is getting short to complete the project.Time is ticking. The grant money must be fully expended by the end of the year, Matheson said. ...It's 50-50 at this point.Once an agreement is reached, the city must work on design work, put the project out to bid, and construct it. If an agreement isn't forged soon, the city won't meet the deadline, he said.If the project falls through, the grant money goes back into the pot for allocation next year, he said.The demise of the project wouldn't mean the demise of the international district, said chamber president and CEO Delores Shull.That's because the chamber would continue to pursue other options for establishing an easily recognizable identity for the district, she said.For example, the chamber would try to bring the flavor of Federal Way's sister cities - Hachinohe, Japan and Tonghae, South Korea - to a plaza in the district. That would emphasize the importance of international trade and good relations between Federal Way and its sister cities, Shull said. "

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