Parking lots and prosperity in Federal Way | Andy Hobbs

The 2012 Northwest Sand Festival ran Aug. 18 to Sept. 3 at The Commons mall parking lot in Federal Way. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
The 2012 Northwest Sand Festival ran Aug. 18 to Sept. 3 at The Commons mall parking lot in Federal Way.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

The Northwest Sand Festival brought world class art to Federal Way for three weeks.

The sculptures were mind-blowing. One favorite was “Ironclad Igloo” by Brent Terry of Seattle. Inside a hollow sand igloo was a smaller igloo bathed by a beam of afternoon sunlight, courtesy of a porthole window.

Kudos to the event’s organizers for bringing novelty — defined as “the quality of being new, original, or unusual” — to Federal Way.

There was one glaring distraction. These sand sculptures were framed by parking lot stripes, port-o-potties and power lines.

The next sand festival, if the city is fortunate enough to host one, needs a better stage.

The city accepts the mall’s parking lot as the de facto public gathering space. Let’s ask whether this parking lot venue is the best Federal Way can do.

Where was last year’s Christmas tree lighting? At the mall parking lot. Where can we find the Lions classic car show, the Federal Way Farmers Market and the annual charity chili cook-off?

You guessed it … the mall parking lot.

There must be a better way. Consider the possibilities of a Federal Way Festival Grounds, for example, or a downtown park. Events like the farmers market, car show and sand sculpting festival would find a home.

Can such a venue contribute to Federal Way’s economic prosperity?

The key is attracting people in search of recreation. Look at Celebration Park and all the sports teams it brings to town, all year long. The park also hosts the Fourth of July fireworks festival, which is perhaps the largest annual gathering of Federal Way residents. Over the years, Celebration Park has become a destination worthy of road signs to guide people toward it.

At the moment, two big vacant parking lots occupy the downtown core — the so-called promised land for Federal Way’s economy.

Deal after deal falls through for that area near the transit center. Examples include a proposal for skyscrapers and the ongoing saga to build the Crystal Palace.

Consider another mammoth project in the region: the proposed NBA arena in Seattle. People are moving mountains to make that project a reality. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, both in investments and potential payouts.

The kind of excitement that comes from moving mountains is missing in Federal Way. Maybe it’s time to dig for gold in a new spot.

Federal Way certainly has the right idea.

On paper, these proposed developments will create jobs and opportunities to live, work and play in the city’s business core.

However, there’s a structural problem in the city’s foundation, and it has nothing to do with skyscrapers and Crystal Palaces.

Before the city can grow taller or wider or richer, the city must build a stronger attachment with residents. Public amenities reduce boredom and increase the enjoyment of life inside Federal Way’s borders.

With that in mind, what’s more threatening to Federal Way’s well-being — the region’s perception of crime and poverty in Federal Way, or the indifference felt by families toward the city they call home?

If the city wants more people spending their money at local businesses, the people need places in Federal Way to invest their time.


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