When Federal Mayor Jim Ferrell signed the ceremonial “topping off” beam for the Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center in August 2016, he wrote “together we build” below his name.
Nearly a year and half later, Ferrell delivered his annual State of the City address with the same title as his inscription in the recently completed PAEC.
Monday’s address was free and open to the public for the first time in the city’s history. In the past, it had been presented during the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“Every organization – a church, a team, a company, a city, a nation – must have a vision, a direction, with which to grow and to build,” Ferrell said during Monday’s address. “With that in mind, I want to say not only is the state of our city strong, but that we are building and growing.”
Development of the downtown core, which includes the PAEC, was one of the main topics Ferrell addressed during his 40-minute speech. Other projects mentioned were Town Square Park, a new hotel and creating a mixed-use development on the former Target property, which could include market-rate apartments, retail shops and restaurants and an educational facility or governmental components.
“We will also begin construction this year on an elegant grand staircase connecting the level of Town Square Park and the Federal Way Transit Center to the hotel and the PAEC,” Ferrell said.
Last year, city, school district, Highline College and University of Washington-Tacoma officials signed a memorandum of understanding to work collaboratively toward bringing higher education classes to Federal Way, which Ferrell said he expects to happen this fall.
“Eventually our plans are to build a fully dedicated brick-and-mortar facility in Town Center Three (the former Target property),” Ferrell said.
The extension of Sound Transit’s light rail, slated to reach Federal Way in 2024, will also change the downtown landscape, Ferrell said.
“This project will greatly improve the ability of our residents to commute throughout the region and will bring people from outside Federal Way into our community to shop at our businesses, participate in our events and increase our tourism,” he said.
Ferrell also spoke about the city’s efforts to combat homelessness.
“It is a painful tragedy, that in a time and place of great prosperity, that there are those among us who are suffering from the plight of homelessness,” he said. “It is our collective duty to help build a better future for those that are suffering. I believe we need both compassion and accountability.”
In the past couple of years, the city has cleared dozens of homeless encampments and helped open a day center for the homeless in the city. Most recently, a temporary overnight shelter for homeless families opened with the aid of the city.
But the work isn’t done, Ferrell said. His staff is looking into the feasibility of starting an employment program for the homeless similar to one in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Homeless individuals, particularly men and women, are offered paid, daily employment cleaning up trash and litter in public areas around the city,” Ferrell said. “If implemented, this program would help on two fronts: making the city look more attractive and providing our most vulnerable citizens with a leg up.”