The recent unanimous City Council vote to authorize construction of the Performing Arts and Conference Center was a vote for prosperity for all Federal Way residents. This historic vote marks a significant step forward for Federal Way’s downtown and for our community as a whole.
The $32 million multipurpose facility will help drive economic development in our city center, while creating an upbeat, vibrant cultural experience for residents and visitors alike.
Revitalization of our downtown has been a widely recognized community need since incorporation 24 years ago. Yet, past economic booms have passed by our downtown. As a Council, we understand that public investment is needed to develop momentum and demonstrate to investors that Federal Way is serious about building a downtown that is a place to drive to, not just a place to drive through.
The Performing Arts and Conference Center will be a 43,500-square-foot facility adjacent to Town Square Park and the Federal Way Transit Center. The 700-seat theater will allow guests to enjoy regional touring acts, local performing arts organizations, school groups and community group performances.
With its dual role as a conference center, the building will host local and regional business meetings as well as community group meetings and special events. The plans also call for a complementary on-site hotel to be built by a private developer.
The importance of the Council’s unanimous vote cannot be underestimated. This has been a controversial issue with significant concerns about the expense of the project. Mayor Ferrell’s Blue Ribbon Panel engaged local, professional expertise to answer the critical questions. The panel found that the city can afford to build the facility without raising taxes, and that the project would have a significant positive impact on our economy and attract additional investment to the downtown.
The Council is also unanimous in its praise of the panel’s work and dedication to the project. Their detailed, exhaustive analysis of the facility financing and operational plans provides a vital, definitive analysis. Having local experts in finance, hospitality, business and performing arts management provide this essential review gives us a high degree of confidence in the feasibility of this complex undertaking.
As exhaustive as the panel’s work was, though, it does not eliminate potential challenges arising. With any large project, as any experienced developer knows, you can manage and reduce the likelihood of unforeseen events, but not eliminate those entirely. What the panel did do, though, is help answer significant leading questions, while mitigating the magnitude of potential unforeseen challenges.
The work of the Council does not end with the vote. While Ferrell’s administration is responsible for building the Performing Arts and Conference Center, the Council must ensure that the project proceeds on time and on budget. Staff will report to the Council regularly, and just as past councils have done with Celebration Park and the Community Center, we will be asking hard questions and providing policy direction to ensure that this newest facility becomes as successful and well-loved as those two earlier community projects.
As important as the Performing Arts and Conference Center can be for the community, one project will not completely remake our city center. It will take continued efforts to attract new businesses and private investment, thus building critical mass to transform the downtown. In addition to the soon-to-open Town Square Park, we need to pursue new ideas, such as development of an innovation zone and recruitment of a college campus. The Council’s current rebranding effort will be important to communicating Federal Way’s attractiveness to the region and stimulating new business interest in our city.
The unanimous vote for the Performing Arts and Conference Center is not an endpoint. Rather, it is a vital starting point for Federal Way’s future.
Council members Jeanne Burbidge, Lydia Assefa-Dawson, Susan Honda, Dini Duclos, Bob Celski, Martin Moore, Kelly Maloney