The quest for cranes in downtown Federal Way

Open house on March 24 seeks input from community members to envision the city core’s future.

As the saying goes, a city’s prosperity can be gauged by the number of cranes up at any given time.

“The idea that we could have three cranes in our downtown in a couple years would be, I think, a sign of success because what it means is that things are actually being built,” said Keith Niven, planning manager for the City of Federal Way.

With discussions of downtown redevelopment growing, city staff are looking for community feedback on the future of Federal Way.

Three key areas include the 21st Avenue South corridor near South 320th Street, the city-owned TC-3 (also known as the former Target building) and the surplus Sound Transit acreage near the incoming light rail station.

The city’s planning staff is hosting a Community Open House from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, March 24, at the Performing Arts and Event Center.

One of the several stations and activities available at the open house will focus on downtown development. These activities, such as brainstorming what elements fit in Federal Way on a picture board, allow staff and residents to craft a better idea of what downtown needs.

Pocket parks or a big plaza? Pedestrian-only streets, public art displays or other yet-to-be-mentioned design elements to help Federal Way find its urban identity? Staff are hoping to hear any and all suggestions.

In the near future, an ad hoc downtown development committee will also be formed with staff and Federal Way City Council members to help further the conversations and decisions.

“We’ve put the first ingredients in place with the Town Square Park and the PAEC and the downtown steps, but what you really want is multiple things for people to do on a sunny Saturday in August,” Niven said.

“Or, at 7 p.m. in the winter when there’s a tree lighting ceremony,” said Chaney Skadsen, senior planner for the City of Federal Way. “It can be really multi-use.”

Another aspect of the redevelopment is creating a pedestrian-oriented passageway for people to travel across South 320th Street from the future light rail station to the businesses and mall across the road, the Mirror previously reported.

To improve non-motorized mobility within the downtown area,“The Dip” project suggests lowering South 320th Street for traffic to travel under an at-grade or slightly elevated bridge for an uninterrupted continuation of 21st Avenue South for pedestrians and cyclists.

“The buildings don’t make the downtown,” Niven said. “It’s about what happens in-between the buildings and how people get from place to place.”

In addition, staff are also working to update the city’s Comprehensive Plan by 2024.

The plan maps the city’s future by outlining goals, objectives, policies, standards and the city’s vision statement that are “intended to guide the day-to-day decisions of elected officials and staff for the next two decades,” according to the Engage Federal Way website.

Engage Federal Way ( is a new website housing information about Federal Way’s downtown development. Visitors can pin a heart where they think downtown is, share ideas of their vision for Federal Way’s future and find out about upcoming meetings.

New chapters to the Comprehensive Plan include sections on human services; climate and resiliency; parks, recreation and open spaces; diversity, culture and history, among others.

Ultimately, Niven and Skadsen emphasized, now is the time to prepare and create a better quality of community to be enjoyed for decades to come.

“What the city lacks in long-range planning and providing those types of [community gathering] spaces from the past, the community makes up for with the connections they have,” Skadsen said, noting the Federal Way Farmers Market’s parking lot location and other leaders who have create community events without dedicated meeting space.

“The community still gathers in parks and other assets of the community,” she said. “They’ve been doing some of the work we haven’t.”