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EDITORIAL: Economic diversity and poverty in Federal Way
Federal Way is growing as a vibrant and diverse community — professionally, ethnically and culturally. However, the city must take steps to ensure economic diversity with populations across the economic spectrum.
According to a recent national report by the Brookings Institution, poverty is moving from the inner cities to the suburbs. For various reasons, including a growing percentage of low-rent apartment complexes, Federal Way is at risk for increased poverty, congestion and crime — a “ghettoized” Federal Way.
Federal Way stands at the crossroads. The city must ensure that upward mobility and a strong middle class are built into our society. The city’s leaders — government, civic and business — need to take swift and decisive action, including the following:
• Tighten up on permitting for multi-family housing. One of the key reasons Federal Way pushed for cityhood was to stop King County’s rubber-stamping of apartment complexes in Federal Way. Indeed, almost all of the apartment complexes in Federal Way were built before Federal Way became a city.
Recently, Federal Way has issued a permit for a new senior housing complex along with permits for two large, low-to-moderate-income apartment complexes. This density of low-cost housing will strain our city’s social services, add hundreds of students to already crowded schools, and increase traffic congestion.
• Make it a top priority to attract new, well paying jobs. Our current director of economic development has at least four other major responsibilities. We need a dedicated director to proactively promote Federal Way to prospective employers, and foster greater cooperation among government and business (including commercial real estate leaders) to promote the community and attract new employers.
• Work to develop “niche” markets in Federal Way, with special economic development zones. One proposed idea includes bringing a university branch campus to Federal Way. This could be an excellent economic stimulus to the community. A number of trade associations have established major offices here.
Could there be a “development zone” campus for trade association offices? Just as Redmond, Kirkland and Bellevue are centers for high-tech businesses, Federal Way could attract health care administrative offices to locate here. Kidney dialysis company DaVita has already chosen Federal Way for its financial headquarters. The city needs to attract other health care offices.
• Revitalize the downtown core. Ideas include completion of a Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC) and development of the former AMC Theatres site on 20th Avenue South. Many are concerned about the proposed $32 million cost of the PACC. Proponents say it would be a beacon to attract development in our downtown core. A high quality mixed use development of the AMC site also has the potential to revitalize our downtown.
Federal Way has a lot to offer. We have beautiful parks, a vibrant community center, a world-class aquatic center, award-winning schools, an award-winning hospital, thriving businesses, and residents committed to making this city even better. We need strong leadership to keep us moving in the right direction, building on strengths and avoiding pitfalls that will adversely affect us if we don’t plan now for responsible growth.