Eye of the tiger: Federal Way is on the rise

By Chris Carrel, Thinking Locally

This column got its start last year with the issue of Federal Way’s image.

I had gotten fed up with the negative media portrayals of the F-Dub, and the “Seattle perspective” of our community. I vowed on my blog to list 100 things about the city that I liked, as evidence that this is a good place to live. The Mirror decided the list was fit to print, and thus was born Thinking Locally.

One year after the column’s birth, however, the tide is beginning to turn. Case in point is the latest edition of the glossy trend-tracking magazine, Seattle Metropolitan. The May issue features a real estate guide to Seattle and its surrounding locales. In its inimitably hip style, the magazine lists several Puget Sound communities in groupings such as “Hot Hoods,” or “Top Commuter Towns.” Each city is treated to a feature page of photographs and short, snappy descriptions.

Federal Way gets its due as one of a handful of “Up and Comers.” These are “underappreciated neighborhoods” with a mix of bargain real estate prices and lifestyle amenities.

The article emphasizes Federal Way’s ethnic diversity and location as well as the availability of relatively affordable homes, along with pricier ones near the water. I’m also happy about the piece because it favorably notes the progress of the Friends of the Hylebos to conserve open space. The article features a photo of Federal Wayers happily walking the West Hylebos Wetlands’ new boardwalk as an example of the F-Dub lifestyle.

In a nod to our longstanding image problems, the Metropolitan describes how one former Seattleite moved here only to be surprised at how decent a community it actually is (hey, not every yard has a rusting Camaro on blocks on the lawn).

Granted, one article does not constitute an extreme image makeover, city edition. And being dubbed an “Up and Comer” isn’t in the same league as a Hot Hood. However, being a town on the rise is a drastic departure from past media treatment of the F-Dub. It’s worlds away from John Moe’s regrettable hash-up of Federal Way in the Seattle Times last year.

The article is the sort of realistic assessment of Federal Way’s positive features that has been missing from the regional media’s treatment of the city.

Moreover, the Metropolitan’s attitude toward Federal Way is reflective of a newly positive perception of the city that I’m encountering more frequently. In the work that I do, I communicate with a fair number of people from Seattle and Tacoma and neighboring cities. I used to encounter a lot of skepticism that important open space conservation was happening in Federal Way. I don’t hear that skepticism any more.

In fact, more often I hear an understanding that some of the most exciting conservation work in the region being done in Federal Way — this was recently underscored by the influential Cascade Land Conservancy recognizing the Friends of the Hylebos with its Land Stewardship Award.

Beyond that, I’m also picking up an appreciation of many of the things I’ve been writing about here: Good schools, safe neighborhoods, a budding downtown.

The same challenges remain, of course. But it’s easier to meet those challenges when there’s a belief — both inside and from those looking from the outside — that Federal Way is on the rise.

Check out the boardwalk

As I wrote in last week’s column, we celebrated Hylebos Day last Saturday.

This was despite weather more fitting the frogs in the wetlands than the people under the tent. Regardless, about 80 Federal Wayers turned out over the course of the afternoon to help us cut the ribbon and test drive the new boardwalk.

For those of you who missed the big day — whether due to weather or scheduling — I encourage you to get outside and check out the boardwalk, perhaps today during the Buds and Blooms event.

Americans on the whole are not getting outside enough and it’s showing in larger seat designs everywhere. Federal Way is blessed to have 120 acres of wildness in our own backyard, just waiting for you to come and experience it.

Chris Carrel is a lifelong Federal Way resident and executive director of the Friends of the Hylebos, a nonprofit conservation organization working to preserve and restore Hylebos Creek and the West Hylebos Wetlands. Contact: chinook@hylebos.org or (253) 874-2005.

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