The Federal Way City Council and Mayor Jim Ferrell agreed to table a previous plan to install playground equipment at Town Square Park, following a lively discussion regarding the park’s future during a meeting Tuesday.
“There had been an agenda item to possibly add some playground equipment to our Town Square Park,” Ferrell said as an introduction. “There [was a realization that there] needed to be a much more strategic vision moving forward with the park. We have the beginnings of a plan.”
Brian Wilson, the city’s chief of staff, outlined some of the issues raised in previous discussions of Town Square Park’s future, noting that the main points boiled down to whether the park should remain four acres in size, whether the city would entertain any possible private development of the property the park sits on and where in the park permanent amenities should be placed.
“First, should the Town Square Park remain a four-acre park? Our answer is yes. But we also want to keep Town Square Park at its current size, with the city remaining open to consider potential development that may be possible on the east and west portions of the park,” Wilson said during his presentation.
As far as the permanent amenities are concerned, Wilson noted that Ferrell has “retained the services of Nakano Associates for planning of more permanent amenities on the site.” Nakano Associates was the firm the city contracted with earlier this year to get the park to its current state and with its current features. Wilson noted some of those future permanent amenities would include a children’s play area with a two bay swing set, a children’s spray park or similar water feature, adding trees for shade, restroom facilities, storage and park lighting.
“We recommend to keep the park at its current four-acre size, remain open to development options on the east and west edges of the property should those materialize and then forward a plan for permanent amenities in the center of the park to the Parks Commission and Council for consideration at a later date,” Wilson concluded.
With the conversation open to the Council, many chimed in with their thoughts on how the city should proceed.
“I’m wondering if we could set aside a bit of that property for a veteran’s monument. Nothing big, nothing extravagant, but something we could rally around for the veterans in Town Square Park,” Councilman Bob Celski said. “We know we have a group that’s been working on this for a period of time and trying to locate a spot in the city.”
Both Ferrell and Wilson agreed that Celski’s idea had merit, and said they would forward the idea to Nakano Associates.
Council members Susan Honda and Kelly Maloney both expressed that the city should perhaps slow down a bit, and take a more measured approach to Town Square Park’s future.
“First of all, before we make any real big decisions, I’d like to know how we’re going to get the public involved in all of this,” Honda said. “Because not only do we want our Parks Commission to have their say, but we also want the public. Because it’s not ‘our’ park, it’s everyone’s park. And it’s really important that if we want the public to buy into having this entire four acres of park, that we listen to what their thoughts are. I want a more concrete answer before we would do that.”
Honda added that if playground equipment is installed, that it be inclusive to all children, or wheelchair accessible. She also expressed reservations about trying to properly market and sell the property if the plan is still to partition it up to outside development at some point in the future.
Ferrell addressed Honda’s concerns regarding public input and participation, noting that there’s already a comment kiosk at the park, along with other forms of official communication for the public to address the issue with the Council.
“There’s a maxim in leadership: People support what they help create. This is the people’s park, this is the Town Square Park. I love the idea, and we’re going to do that,” the mayor said.
Maloney’s concerns addressed the gray area the city now seems to have entered into with the choice between fully developing the property under the city’s guidance, or making some part of the property available to private investment.
“I love the success the park has had so far. It’s rewarding to see that energy in the downtown. I too am concerned, though, about having that entire four acres dedicated to the park … I thought from the beginning it was supposed to be two acres of park, two acres of development … My concern is that it’s going to be an enormous amount of money spent on a park, where we should be spending some of that money on a marketing plan to market two acres for mixed-use development.”
“That’s why we wanted Nakano’s help, to move forward in a way in which we could fully realize the benefits of a park, while not just simply waiting for some kind of development down the road,” Ferrell said in response to Maloney’s concerns. “This property has been sitting there for years, a pile of rubble, while we’ve been going back and forth waiting. What we want to do is activate that site … Stasis and leaving it where it is right now is not a path forward.”
Councilmember Dini Duclos said she thinks developing the park more fully has the potential to be a spark for the outside investment the city is hoping will be attracted to the downtown core in the near future.
“I’m excited we actually have a park and are going to do something with it,” she said. “And I think that will actually help get development around it, maybe residential development, because they’ll have a park right there for children to play in … This is all very exciting and I’m glad to see that the Council is going to take action on it.”
“I’m really supportive of this policy,” said Councilman Martin Moore. “There’s a huge opportunity for the future of Federal Way … My vision is to see people having lunch in the park because they’re coming out of their offices. I think there’s a lot of partnership opportunities in the future … I’m reminded of ‘If you build it, they will come.’”
The Council tabled the motion to purchase playground equipment for the park, so Nakano Associates is able to do their work and present their plans to the Council at a later date.
The proposed plan for the playground equipment would have seen the city spending up to $56,000 for the equipment. The motion that was tabled also included an item that would have the city spending “less than $20,000” on trees for the park.