News

City dangles $5 million carrot for developers

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

The Federal Way City Council has taken two more steps toward kicking off hoped-for economic development downtown by accepting the work conducted over the past year by the Leland Consulting Group and directing municipal officials to craft a resolution creating a $5 million redevelopment fund to help encourage redevelopment.

While the action by the council last month doesn’t change anything, officials noted it does reiterate the council’s support for the city center vision identified in the city’s comprehensive plan, and it sends a positive message to developers.

The city last year hired the Leland Group, acknowledged as experts in the field, to conduct a market analysis to determine if Federal Way could support mixed-use development in the city center core –– and, if so, to recommend strategies for how to make it happen.

The Leland Group finished the market analysis last summer, and last month, the consultants provided city officials with some strategies to get started.

On Oct. 11, the council formally expressed support for the development of a variety of commercial uses downtown, including retail and restaurants, housing and hotels, entertainment venues such as theaters, museums and performing arts centers, office buildings, civic and educational facilities, and public gathering places –– all in a mixed-use, multi-story, pedestrian and transit-friendly area.

The council stated its intent to consider implementing the redevelopment strategies identified by Leland consultants over the next five years, and willingness to consider partnerships with other public or private entities for certain development projects.

The latter is why the council asked city officials to draft a resolution creating the $5 million downtown redevelopment fund.

A few council members, including Jim Ferrell, were opposed early on to the creation of a stated economic development fund with a quantity of money identified in it.

Ferrell stated his concern that developers, armed with the knowledge the city had such a fund, would be likely to want a piece of it — even if they would have developed here, anyway.

But others on the council disagreed, saying so many of Federal Way’s neighboring cities have similar funds and incentive measures, Federal Way would be at a disadvantage to even attract developers without identifying some kind of revenue source to help offset some of the development costs.

City finance officials told council members that the initial $5 million for the redevelopment fund could come mostly from excess real estate excise tax revenue. According to the city’s August monthly financial report, real estate excise tax so far this year has come in almost 60 percent higher than last year.

According to state law, real estate excise tax revenue can be used only for capital projects. Revenue generated by the tax can’t be used to pay for items in the city’s operating budget, like police or city government.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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