Dowtown appeal wanes for new city hall


Staff writer

Members of Federal Way’s Municipal Facility Advisory Committee agree city workers, especially police, need more space, but they’re advising the city against building a new city hall — especially downtown.

In a final report expected by the end of the year, the committee will recommend the City Council look seriously at building out the current city hall into a campus-type setting — as opposed to a single building — on adjacent property already owned by the city.

The committee “does not support spending additional money to locate in the downtown core,” chairman Jack Dovey said at a public forum Wednesday night. “There are many needs in the city of Federal Way. We urge the council to be frugal and make sure they weigh the cost of a new facility with other needs that are out there.”

Building a new facility downtown was estimated to cost about $24.5 million, according to numbers generated by the Seneca Group, a real estate management company the city hired first as a consultant and then as a property manager for the project.

Building onto the current city hall site is estimated to cost about $14.5 million.

The committee’s three other site recommendations included property at South 336th Street and Sixth Avenue South (almost $16 million), vacant land at First Way South and South 320th Street (about $19 million) and an East Campus site at 32nd Avenue South and South 320th Street (almost $20 million).

In addition to recommending sites for the council’s consideration, the committee will suggest that the council use an open bid process for developers to submit their proposals for constructing a municipal facility.

A panel of commercial developers told the committee on Oct. 9 that the open bid process fosters creativity and keeps costs competitive.

“There are many deals to be had,” Dovey said. “There may be someone out there who will make a sweetheart deal. We don’t want the city to miss out on an opportunity.”

The handful of Federal Way residents who addressed the committee Wednesday night said they were impressed by the amount of research the committee undertook during the past six months, and that they were pleasantly surprised at the conclusions the committee drew.

Dave Larson, a member of the city’s Human Services Commission who addressed the committee Wednesday night, encouraged committee members to follow through with emphasizing their recommendations after the report is submitted.

“I’m concerned with the need to appease and not to ruffle feathers,” he said. “This is an issue where feathers need to be ruffled.”

He told the committee he’s concerned that some on the council have made up their minds about the location and design specifications for a new cops, courts and city hall facility.

That the 2003-04 city budget includes $24.5 million for the building doesn’t assuage his concerns, though city officials have said the city set aside that amount but won’t necessarily spend that much.

Pat Allison, a Federal Way resident who also addressed the committee, said she’d rather see a new community and senior center than a new city hall downtown.

She told the committee she was hoping to upgrade to a smaller but newer house recently, but with reduced returns on investments and a lower income, she couldn’t do it.

“We are happily making improvements to the home we have,” she said. “We think the city should do the same.”

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and

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