Federal Way News Briefs | July 19

Council votes to delay Symphony project one year

The city council unanimously voted Tuesday to allow a one-year delay on construction of Federal Way’s Symphony project — the four-tower, mixed-use downtown project approved last year.

Canadian developers United Properties Ltd. announced the economy and hardships in securing financial backing are to blame for the delay. The developer made the decision to request a postponement on the Symphony project after its lenders advised it to do so, United Properties president Victor Setton said.

“In view of the financial situation that is occurring throughout the world, unfortunately, this is something out of our control,” Setton said at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “We believe it will be prudent at this time to delay the development of this project.”

Financial backer, Canada ICI Capital, gave United Properties a letter of promise to provide the necessary funding for the project, which will be constructed in 18-month phases. Setton said he is confident the Seattle area’s building market will rebound within the next year.

“We believe Seattle is one of the most stable areas in the United States,” he said. “Once this financial turmoil settles down and consumer confidence returns, Symphony will be launched.”

The city bought the four-acre property, where the former AMC Theaters resided and where Symphony will be located, for $4.1 million. United Properties agreed to purchase it for $6.156 million in December. The project was slated to break ground this past June, director of economic development Patrick Doherty said.

The city and United Properties currently have until September 2009 to close on the acreage. The extension will cost the city approximately $150,000 in carrying costs per year, city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said. United Properties has offered to pay this cost, she said.

Council supports regional jail

The Federal Way City Council unanimously passed a motion to support construction of a South King County regional jail structure Tuesday.

“I think we should be a leader in making this happen,” Mayor Jack Dovey said.

The council asked, in late March, police Cmdr. Stan McCall to report back to it on how the cost of building a city jail compared to that of contributing to the regional jail idea, called SCORE.

To build a 92-bed facility located at City Hall, it would cost the city approximately $14.8 million in construction costs in 2008 dollars, along with $3.5 million in operating costs per year, McCall said.

Prisoners could only be kept for up to 30 days. The structure would not have the resources to house prisoners with mental or medical conditions or those who are difficult to manage.

This would require the city to continue contracts with Yakima or King County, which recently extended an offer to allow cities to house prisoners in the King County Jail until 2014, instead of the previously negotiated 2010.

To partake in the SCORE regional jail, it would cost the city, in 2010 dollars, approximately $16.6 million in construction costs and $3 million annually in operating costs for about 130 beds, McCall said. Federal Way’s average daily jail population was 66 prisoners in 2007, according to McCall.

This option will allow the city to house prisoners with medical, mental and behavioral problems. It will not allow Federal Way to fully control the operations of the jail.

“I think the data is pretty compelling that the SCORE facility makes more sense,” city council member Jim Ferrell said.

Discussions with participating SCORE jurisdictions are ongoing, city manager Neal Beets said. Currently, the cities of Renton, Tukwila, Auburn and Des Moines have shown in interest in building a South King County regional jail. The cost for construction and operation of the facility will be split among the cities. Among other things, rate structures and a location must be defined before the project proceeds, Beets said.

“I really can’t see the benefits of having our own jail,” city council member Dini Duclos said.

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