Q: Mr. Federal Way, there has been a lot of talk lately about the city’s downtown. What do you think the city’s downtown needs in order to be a true city center?
A: OK, so the quick answer would be, “What downtown?” as this week’s community poll on the Mirror’s website lists as one of the answers to the same question.
But let’s not be too hasty. Mayor Jimmy likes to talk a big game about Federal Way’s downtown core as if it’s a defined area with an identity and life of its own, but it’s unfair to insinuate that recent efforts such as the Performing Arts and Event Center or Town Square Park don’t count toward such an effort.
You ask our smooth-talking city leader about those projects when he’s on his re-election schpiel, and he’d have you believe he was solely responsible for those accomplishments as opposed to being mayor when those projects finally got rolling.
But it is short-sighted to suggest all of his claims about that area of the city’s potential are without merit.
The area does have potential. And whether you believe Mayor Jimmy’s interest is solely in getting re-elected or that he really is interested in seeing the 320th Street and Pacific Highway corridor turn into something special, his talk is keeping it at the forefront.And it is sparking some much-needed conversation in the community.
What does that area need to become a true downtown core? Believe it or not: It has a lot of the pre-requisites, namely, no parking and horrendous traffic.
Really, to emulate our fair emerald city to the north, all it needs in that regard are a few public parking lots the size of a Saint Bernard’s sleeping crate, hourly parking fees that rival those of your average orthodontist, and three or four one-way streets — and Federal Way’s downtown is even Steven.
Throw in a couple of roundabouts and our fair city can even take the lead.
But let’s be realistic, Federal Way is never going to have a Main Street USA.
The city was built to be a bedroom community with a highway and main thoroughfare smack dab in the middle of all the action. You can only expect so much when most of the city’s shopping hubs are located in strip malls.
That is not to say, however, the situation can’t be remedied and everyone should abandon hope.
There are things the city can do to give it a more downtown feel.
First, the city can adopt design standards that class up the joint and differentiate it from every other thoroughfare in town. Second, and this would take some creativity, future sidewalk and street improvements could redirect traffic away from that area and include features that make it more pedestrian-friendly and inviting.
Currently, people are limited to crossing the four-lane road at the crosswalks at the different intersections a gazillion miles apart or taking their lives in their hands by making a mad dash across said road and playing “chicken” with cars, semis and motorcycles.
A better idea might be to develop the downtown around and in the current strip malls, ignoring the mall side of 320th Street altogether.
The area already has the PAEC and will soon have a hotel and some grand staircase that could look nice but likely will be largely ignored in favor of an elevator.
Plant some trees. Get a grant to install fancy lighting fixtures.
Add an actual amphitheater area and seating for outdoor shows and community plays.
Implement some fancier design standards for buildings when they change ownership or undergo a major overhaul.
Install some objectionable public art next to Ferrell’s Palace — Mr. Federal Way will thumb-wrestle Mayor Jimmy for subject-matter rights. Install non-objectionable art designed by a local artist that showcases the city’s diversity.
Mayor Jimmy is right. The area has great potential, and there is more work to be done. We’ll just have to see if the effort outlasts his political aspirations
Q. Mr. Federal Way, which do prefer: Mod Pizza or Chick-fil-a?
A. None of your business.
This column is staff produced. Got a question for Mr. Federal Way? Email email@example.com.