Opinion

The search for Main Street in Federal Way | Nandell Palmer

If a particular thoroughfare were to be declared Main Street in Federal Way, which street would get that distinction: 320th Street, 348th Street, or Pacific Highway South from 312th Street to 336th Street?

Many of us who call Federal Way home came from cities and towns that had Main Streets. There is something within us that wants to tap into that archetypal Main Street. We come alive when we go to fairs and festivals because our quest for Main Street is satisfied.

Traditionally, Main Streets have been the fulcrum of countless cities. They are the pulse of America.

When Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office in New York City in the 1990s, one of the first things he did was to transform the storied 42nd Street into a Main Street of sorts. And he called in the people who have been fabricating Main Streets on the fly for decades: Disney.

In fact, Walt Disney so loved his boyhood Main Street in Marceline, Mo., that in 1955 he decided to replicate it in Anaheim, Calif. — a la Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland.

Creating a Main Street atmosphere doesn’t always necessitate a leviathan undertaking. More and more, Main Streets are giving way to outlet and strip malls. But savvy mall developers are utilizing Main Street elements in their creations as a way to lure more shoppers.

Recently, a Federal Way resident started a midnight walk through the city. What a grand idea! What would make those walks even more interesting are the conversational tidbits centered on the eye-catching characters on a makeshift Main Street.

Some awesome must-haves come to mind when I think about a successful Main Street: local bakeries, homemade ice cream shops, cotton candy and stuffed toy shops, burger joints with soda fountains, quilt and antique shops, general stores, just to name a few.

These shops would be housed in buildings festooned with features from a throwback era, namely Italianate facades, Queen Anne turret, Western-style false fronts, Gothic Revival, and the list goes on. Main Street lends interest and vigor to a city. It also lends comfort. Slow walks and musings are some of its hallmarks. On Main Street, you’ll find the best pub or the best food, hole-in-the-wall aside.

There’s no pretension on Main Street. Peaches and cream is for the other street across town. Main Street keeps things simple. It has a way of blazing a community spirit into action that could never have caught fire anywhere else.

On Main Street, shopkeepers never get tired of giving lagniappe — a little bonus thrown in after making a purchase — especially to customers’ children.

Main Street is hard to put into a box. It’s more than the unique buildings and people that it boasts. It’s a gentle spirit that cannot be contained. You have to experience it in real time.

Shopping for holiday gifts with laughing children leading the way is more exciting on Main Street. Or how about eating homemade cookies and pies as you people watch?

Joy-walking its illuminated street at night is a ton of fun on its own. Guys joshing with friends en route to the game shop is also another treat. Take time to indulge these homey community traditions along your selected hometown Main Street as often as you see fit.

How I wish that all of my favorite restaurants and stores were on Main Street. Since that is not the case, I will create my own virtual Main Street and make the best of my time while I traverse this beautiful city.

In the meantime, I will be forever in search of that halcyon Main Street of my dream, whether it may be found on 320th Street, 348th Street or Pacific Highway South.

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