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Downtown Federal Way starts makeover with Town Square Park

Construction is underway for Town Square Park, the city of Federal Way
Construction is underway for Town Square Park, the city of Federal Way's first downtown park. The park is directly to the west of the Federal Way Transit Center and east of hotel Clarion.
— image credit: Courtesy city of Federal Way

Upon taking exit 143 from Interstate 5, drivers need only head west to find themselves smack dab in the middle of a busy commercial district with plenty of restaurants, retail outlets and shops to choose from.

But as of July 12, residents and visitors alike will be able to escape the bustle in busy downtown Federal Way with a trip to Town Square Park.

For those who’ve been to New York, think a Federal Way-sized version of Bryant Park.

“Bryant Park is really sort of a, what I’ve been referring to as, an urban public oasis,” said Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, adding that Town Square Park will compare.

While much smaller than Central Park, Bryant Park is a refuge from the tall buildings of New York City. It’s home to a large carousel, a film festival, gardens, a chess area, ping pong and a grill and cafe.

Town Square Park — the first downtown park in the history of Federal Way — will include a large grass area for picnicking, playing and gathering for concerts and other events. Picnic benches and tables will be scattered throughout as two large human-sized chess sets, accompanied by a maze and colorful labyrinth for children.

One full and two half-sized basketball courts will sit to the east and west of the large labyrinth, while an open area for a potential Farmers Market encompasses a large 15-to-20-foot tall Fraser tree for the holidays.

“I envision families and residents playing, walking and picnicking in our downtown park,” Ferrell said. “When we do a Christmas tree lighting, get together for concerts or special events, this is the meeting place. This is going to be a place where people drive to instead of through.”

The four-acre parcel will also include a parking lot, plenty of pedestrian access and several types of plants - Snap Dragons, Diamond Frost, and Purple Wood Sage, to name a few. A community garden, deemed a “cabbage and/or pea patch,” will also be on the park grounds.

According to Ken Miller, the interim parks director with the city of Federal Way, the city has owned the park property since 2006-07.

“The idea was to get some development downtown and get some proposals,” Miller said. “But in the last seven or eight years, nothing’s happened. There were a few odds and ends but nothing’s gone far enough along to be built.”

But the city had, and continues to have, a vision for downtown Federal Way. It was time to act.

“I’ve been talking about this for well over 10 years now and I’m really excited about what I think will be a watershed moment in Federal Way’s history,” Ferrell said. “… One of the things I’ve noticed in 2010 and today is the sense of center. Most cities, be it Kirkland with their waterfront park or Olympia with Sylvester, most communities have this town square park in which everything emanates out from.”

Ferrell was a part of the Federal Way City Council when they purchased the land with 2005 funds set aside for the revitalization of downtown, but it was underutilized and inactive until now.

“It’s something that I campaigned on in 2010 and this last [election],” he said. “This is a central component of my agenda — to activate our downtown.”

Prior to becoming an empty parking lot, it was the home of an AMC movie theater.

Not only will the park give patrons a place to come, but the city expects it will be an economic driver as well.

The park is directly to the west of the Federal Way Transit Center and east of hotel Clarion. It’s near businesses such as 24 Hour Fitness, the Palace Korean Bar and Grill, Pac Island Grill, Big 5 Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx, DSW Designer Show Warehouse, Old Country Buffet, Trader Joe’s and Cafe Arizona.

The newly-approved Performing Arts and Conference Center, which will hold 700 attendees, will strategically be to the north of the park.

“I think it’s going to be a vibrant downtown park,” Miller said. “The idea is to make it real colorful and attractive.”

The park is located at cross streets 20th Avenue South and South 316th Street.

 

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