Letters to the Editor

Dollars and sense: Building an arts center in Federal Way | Letter to the editor

To Mayor Jack Dovey and members of the Federal Way City Council:

There are some misconceptions floating about regarding the Performing Arts and Cultural Center (PACC) project, and I would like to offer some facts.

The project, in these economic times, would not only provide welcome construction jobs, as well as related work, but the cost will be considerably less than projected when the C. H. Johnson Facility Feasibility Study was completed.

I am currently in contact with LMN Architects, who were part of that study, for more realistic figures. The study’s figures were developed with inflation in mind, and with the idea that the PACC would be built during strong economic times. LMN offered to have new figures, their estimate, prior to Jan. 6. Since McIntyre Hall in Mt. Vernon, which they designed, is comparable to what we would be constructing, they will base their projections on that, and other projects in which they are currently involved. See www.mcintyrehall.org.

The Mirror’s call for a vote of the people is not quite based in fact. The 2006 school district bond issue, which included a large performance hall, had a 54 percent approval rating. This was not enough for the 60 percent supermajority needed, but it is a strong majority that many politicians would enjoy in getting elected to public office.

In addition, the state Legislature has already awarded the city $500,000 for pre-construction costs, which would include design and site development. Similarly, the Federal Way Coalition of the Performing Arts applied for $325,000 in Community Trade and Economic Development funding (through Building for the Arts) toward the same costs. This amount is included in the governor’s 2009-2010 budget.

We know several million dollars will be available at the state level for capital projects as economic stimulus. We also know that money will go to whichever city can show it has carefully prepared for its project, and can show the need. After two years of intensive discussions, research and even providing private funding for The Collins Group Campaign Feasibility study, currently under way, we have shown due diligence. And do you want your state tax dollars spent in Seattle, Tacoma or Federal Way?

Over the years, the city has provided and still provides substantial funding for Celebration Park, Steel Lake Park, Sacajawea, Lakota and all other parks and sports fields. Arts advocates have waited patiently ever since the city was incorporated while the city purchased the property for Celebration Park and improved it at great expense. We saw a police department created. A beautiful new community center was built. Improvements to Pacific Highway have been funded and constructed.

All these are worthy, successful projects contributing to quality of life. But isn’t it about time that all our talented Federal Way performers of all ages have some place to put on a concert or dramatic production? For our award-winning symphony to play? For an attractive large gathering place in our redeveloping downtown?

Regarding the new PACC, there are many grants available for operation and maintenance of arts-related facilities. There are also plans for a foundation to be created for that purpose. Locally, 4Culture (King County) and ArtsFund (private and corporate money) have repeatedly advised us there would be funds available to assist in many ways. "Apply often,” they tell us. We would!

Therefore, the city’s own financial projections do not include any tax increases to pay for the construction or operation of a Federal Way Performing Arts and Cultural Center.

We all will benefit in many ways, and we will have a city that can finally present its wonderful ethnic culture, plus local, regional and touring talent as well as its high school concerts or plays in a real facility meant for that purpose, not a school cafeteria. And we’ll have a large lobby/conference center where all the many community celebrations and fundraisers — Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and Federal Way Symphony, for example — could be held, instead of having to leave Federal Way.

Use of the large lobby/conference center, along with the 700-seat performance space, for business conferences, trade shows/small conventions and corporate meetings could enhance downtown Federal Way as a business and entertainment destination. Each year, the Federal Way Chamber has found it necessary to hold its major events outside the city, the Boys and Girls Club fundraiser is in Auburn, and Rotary goes to Tacoma. These are economic benefits we lose.

Take advantage of the current economic situation and let’s build this facility at reduced cost, put people to work and be ready when times have improved, to be — at last — a first class city.

Please support a Federal Way Performing Arts and Cultural Center, and vote yes to support the FWPACC and include it in 2009, as it was in 2008, in the city’s legislative agenda for the state Legislature.

Thank you, and Happy Holidays!

Joann Piquette,

President of the Federal Way Coalition of the Performing Arts

Contact Joann Piquette: Jodawg@Juno.com

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