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Federal Way residents remain split on PACC following panel findings

The city plans to build a Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC) in the downtown core. The PACC will accommodate conferences, seminars, events, nonprofit and community meetings.   - Courtesy City of Federal Way
The city plans to build a Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC) in the downtown core. The PACC will accommodate conferences, seminars, events, nonprofit and community meetings.
— image credit: Courtesy City of Federal Way

The Federal Way Council heard both sides of the proposed Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC) debate when residents shared their thoughts about the Blue Ribbon Panel’s (BRP) findings on May 8.

First up was Byron Hiller, a well-known proponent against the PACC in the community. Hiller conceded that the BRP did an excellent job in the 139-page report they produced for the city, but said he felt this was a step that needed to be taken some time ago.

“How can you represent the taxpayers of Federal Way by not having done this two or three years ago, before obligating us to the point we’re at now,” Hiller asked the Council. “[A report like this earlier] would have made a lot of our decisions easier. We could have had the proper debate. But now we’re running out of time, [it’s being said] that it’s too late to change course.”

Hiller also noted some of the funding sources, among them the federal New Market Tax Credits program, which the city is exploring to meet an estimated shortfall that could range up to $9 million, seemed like “going to Vegas.” Hiller was also critical of a new idea that city staff presented during the special May 8 Council meeting when the BRP’s findings were discussed.

“As far as loaning ourselves money to make more money, that just doesn’t make sense either,” he said. “To say that we’re going to loan some of our funds to ourselves to make an extra percent or two of interest, that type of thinking only happens in a government thinking model, not a private thinking model.”

Hiller added he feels the PACC could be a net positive for the city, but still feels the city has gone about the project in the wrong way so far, and that the “taxpayers of Federal Way still should have the ultimate say to obligate these kinds of funds.”

John Wilde wondered if the city and the PACC’s supporters have overlooked a potential hidden cost to the project, namely the need for better road infrastructure in the downtown core.

“I was just curious if those numbers took into consideration what the city will have to incur in terms of road improvement,” he said. “We’re going to have to spend money on roads, improvements, getting in and out. If people come here and can’t get in and out of the city, then it’s going to be a negative experience to come to the PACC.”

“I’m not trying to be against it, I think it’d be great if something like this came to Federal Way,” he added. “It’s reviving us, it’s a great thing so far. If (people) can’t get in and out, how’s it going to be a positive experience?”

The first predominantly positive feedback from the public came from Margaret Nelson, who said Federal Way deserves a facility like the proposed PACC.

“I’ve lived in Federal Way for 30 years, we deserve to have a nice downtown. We deserve to have a Performing Arts and Conference Center that will encourage other developers to come and build retail and residences that are high-end, not low-end,” she said. “We deserve to be proud of our downtown, and to feel confident to ask people to come and we can feel good to have them come. I urge you to please move forward with this, otherwise, we’ve got another 30 years when nothing will happen.”

Paul Levy expressed his admiration for the work done by the BRP.

“I guess I want to congratulate the panel, and you Mr. Mayor, for this idea,” he said. “You guys surprised the hell out of me, and if what you’re saying is halfway true, there can be no question that this project goes forward. If you think the economic impact that this will have on our community (is correct), it is nothing short of phenomenal.”

The BRP was composed of nine members of the community, with various areas of expertise.

To learn more about the PACC, visit www.cityoffederalway.com/PACC.

 

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