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City courts developers to help improve downtown infrastructure

Hundreds of people in the building business have been extended an enticing offer: Consideration for state money to transform Federal Way’s downtown.

On June 23, the city issued a Request for Concepts (RFC) for how downtown can be redeveloped. Groups have until Aug. 22 to pitch their ideas for mixed-use development in the city center. Those participating in the RFC process must show a willingness to enter into a public-private partnership, along with a need for Local Infrastructure Financing Tool funding to complete or better their masterpiece.

Approximately 275 people or entities — developers, architects, land owners, brokers and several others involved in development — were notified of the RFC.

“We have to get the word out, not everyone knows about it,” city council member Eric Faison said.

Money up

for grabs

Through LIFT, Federal Way will receive up to $1 million compensation from the state for the next 25 years. The city is seeking ideas for mixed-use projects, similar to the 2007 approved downtown Symphony project, in which to invest the money.

Beginning in mid- to late-2009, the city must have a plan for how it will use the money. The city must also be prepared to match the funding. The RFC is the first step in creating a roadmap to future redevelopment.

“We have to have a plan in place,” director of economic development Patrick Doherty said. “We don’t have time to waste.”

Pitching ideas

The concepts submitted must demonstrate a public component in order to be considered. LIFT money can only be used to construct or improve public infrastructure, such as roads, right-of-ways, sidewalks, parking, open space and bicycle or pedestrian trials, among other things, Doherty said.

“We are not out there handing money to private developers for their private projects,” Doherty said.

As the city and its downtown grow, the need for public parking has become apparent, he said. In order to achieve a high-density downtown, structured parking is needed, he said. LIFT finances could assist a developer in offering the parking.

“The first couple projects are really going to be carrying a burden in trying to pay for structured parking because that’s expensive,” Doherty said.

Interest will especially be taken in concepts that include retail because it would be a way to reclaim, through sales tax, the money the city is required to match, Faison said.

“We are looking for projects that would achieve tax revenue,” he said.

Keeping the options open

Some land in the LIFT Revenue Development Area, located near The Commons mall and Interstate 5, could be better utilized than other pieces of property. But the city is keeping its options open and will accept ideas for any development that fits the RFC criteria.

“There are some underutilized properties out there we would certainly like to see developed,” Doherty said.

The most-liked development concepts will be invited to submit an in-depth plan. If all goes well, this would be followed with an invitation to break ground in Federal Way.

“(The RFC) is one more statement of how committed we are to redevelopment,” Faison said.

Contact Jacinda Howard

jhoward@fedwaymirror.com

Check it out:

To read the complete RFC and view a map of the City Center LIFT Revenue Development Area, visit www.cityoffederalway.com/bids/.

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