Federal Way has been my home for over 40 years. This community means a great deal to me and to my family.
When I first moved to Federal Way in 1972, it was unincorporated, but held great potential. The Commons Mall was built in the mid-1970s, the King County Aquatics Center was built in 1990, and Celebration Park followed in 1999. Many people took the lead — and the risk — to provide us with these and many other popular assets.
While we have wonderful attractions throughout the city, our city core still awaits something great — great for our city, our citizens, our visitors, and our future.
Our downtown is located right off I-5 and serves as our city’s “front door.” Unlike many towns with century-old traditional city centers, Federal Way is young and does not boast such “downtown” traditions. But that just means our downtown traditions are ours to be built.
Building a vibrant, prosperous city center we can all be proud of is within our grasp, but that investment in our downtown must begin soon. The proposed Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC) is the type of investment that can enliven the downtown and ignite other private investment in the city core. The PACC would represent a major destination for residents and visitors, providing a resource to our business community and a home to our diverse cultural community.
The city already owns the former Toys R' Us site, which is large enough to accommodate the PACC and offers commanding views of Mt. Rainier with easy access to I-5. The preliminary concept provides for a 700-seat performance hall, and a 400-person conference center.
This facility would host a vast array of performances, competitions, conferences, seminars and community gatherings. We could keep our own performing groups in town, attract new cultural events, provide the school district with a major events venue, and attract conferences and other business meetings — most of which currently go to neighboring cities, along with those visitor dollars.
Instead, attendees at such major events will populate our hotels, dine in our restaurants and shop in our stores.
The city’s proposal is to move this investment forward without increasing taxes. We can do this by generating the capital funds from existing one-time funds, grants, capital campaign efforts, state contributions, and other resources. With the dual business model of performances and conferences, the goal is for the facility to sustain itself with little or no city subsidy within five years.
Moreover, the use of one-time capital funds does not conflict with general-fund-financed public safety. The larger issue is that without economic development in the downtown core, the burden of public safety costs will increasingly shift to residents. The PACC will serve as the keystone to a strong redeveloped downtown, with new restaurants, shopping and housing — all generating increased sales and property taxes that can help fund enhanced public safety services in the future.
The PACC fits in perfectly with the vision of reinventing our downtown core. The synergy between the PACC, the anticipated town square slated for the old AMC Theatre site, new retail shops, and potentially a satellite campus of a university or college, will bring to life the downtown core area. And this is only a start.
We can’t wait for some phantom investor to build our long-awaited downtown. It took former city leaders with foresight to build our existing city assets. We must follow suit now — take the initiative, use resources we have, and get the ball rolling.
If not, the city’s “front door” may still be plagued by empty lots and buildings in 20 years. And who wants that?
More information can be found at FederalWayPACC.org.
Bob Celski, Federal Way City Council