Council thinking bigger for civic complex


Staff writer

Downtown Federal Way is back in the running for a recently expanded concept of a civic center complex that could include a new city hall, police station and courthouse, as well as a community and senior center and swimming pool.

The City Council agreed at its annual retreat last Saturday to revisit the list of nine sites identified by the Municipal Facility Advisory Committee — and to add SeaTac Mall at the request of Councilman Eric Faison — to see which might best accommodate construction of a municipal facility and community center in one place.

The committee narrowed the list of nine sites to four in its final report to the council last year. Its top recommendation was for the city to expand in the current City Hall location.

Committee members also recommended an open bid process to flush out any potential sites they weren’t aware of when they started their research.

Council members decided against an open bid process for picking a site, but probably will use the process for hiring a developer once a site has been chosen.

Either process would take about the same amount of time, according to assistant city manager Derek Matheson. Officials estimate the city could have a developer on board by the end of August.

The council decision to co-locate the municipal facility, community center and pool, which a mediator discussed with each member prior to the retreat, changed the scope of work the municipal facility committee spent nine months researching and left some wondering whether the project is essentially back on the drawing board.

Adding the community center and pool introduces new factors, like acreage, for the council to consider, and finding enough land will drive up the cost of development.

The council estimated a community center, senior center and pool would cost $10 million and increased the utility tax 1 percent to provide a revenue stream to cover it.

City parks director Jennifer Shroder said five acres of land probably would be needed to accommodate a community center and pool.

Her plan, which she presented at the council retreat, calls for nine months of public input, with site evaluation expected this fall, site selection this fall or winter and acquisition of land slated for as late as 2004. The timeline is roughly concurrent with the city’s schedule for choosing a municipal facility site and hiring a developer.

Because the project now includes the community center and pool, most council members wanted to review all nine sites to determine where to build such a large civic complex.

Of the sites the committee considered, only three are considered big enough — the current location plus nearby Reliance land, the Safeway/Fred Meyer property and East Campus property.

Councilman Jack Dovey, formerly the chairman of the municipal facility committee, suggested expanding city functions at the current city hall location, estimated to cost $18 million, and buying nearby Reliance property, estimated to cost almost $23 million to develop, for a community center and pool.

Safeway/Fred Meyer property, located at First Avenue South and South 320th Street, is big enough at 16.3 acres and is estimated to cost $25.7 million. East Campus property, located east of Interstate 5 at 32nd Avenue South and South 320th Street, also is big enough at 20 acres. It’s estimated to cost $26.2 million to develop.

Council members requested a report that considers size, the potential impacts of co-location, cost of construction, the layout and public-private partnership opportunities for each of the 10 sites.

City officials hope to report back to the council by the second meeting in February, but it might take as late as March, Matheson said, to gather all the information.

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