Federal Way takes next step in Crystal Palace project

The Federal Way City Council voted unanimously to move forward with a purchase/sale agreement with ARCAAD Inc., the Boston-based firm that hopes to build an ambitious Crystal Palace design on the former AMC Theatres site in downtown Federal Way.

The former AMC Theatres site

The former AMC Theatres site

The Federal Way City Council voted unanimously to move forward with a purchase/sale agreement with ARCAAD Inc., the Boston-based firm that hopes to build an ambitious Crystal Palace design on the former AMC Theatres site in downtown Federal Way.

The purchase price will be determined by the two parties agreeing on an appraisal value, said city attorney Pat Richardson at the council’s Oct. 18 meeting.

“Both parties will submit appraisals, exchange appraisals,” she said. “If we can’t agree upon a purchase price based upon the appraisals, if necessary, the process is we would agree to hire an independent appraiser who would act as an arbitrator.”

If needed, the arbitrator would not generate its own appraisal, but would choose between the city’s appraisal and ARCAAD’s appraisal, Richardson said.

Another detail of the agreement is that up to $300,000 would be provided for public art, Richardson said. Along with this, both parties would agree to share the costs of an environmental assessment of the property, which would take between two to six weeks, Richardson said.

Patrick Doherty, the city’s economic development director, shared some of the design elements that are part of the agreement. Among those are a “variety of materiality and expression,” although the project would still express a “cohesive architectural statement.” He touched on some sustainability guidelines that would follow Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Doherty noted that the closing date for this agreement is Jan. 6, 2012.

Mayor Skip Priest shared his thoughts on what this agreement means going forward.

“This is the next step in terms of an obviously long process,” Priest said. “To some extent, this is still a work in progress. At the same time, we’ve seen an ongoing cooperation and communication with the ARCAAD group. We’ve been very pleased by the fact we’re seeing a more and more practical design here, as we get a better idea of what is being thought of by the proponents.”

Councilwoman Linda Kochmar shared her thoughts on the project, saying an understanding of the original history of the Crystal Palace in London may be helpful in drumming up support for the local project as it moves forward.

“It was fairly interesting when they were talking about the Crystal Palace having been an architectural building that was in London at the turn of the century,” she said. “Trying to build on, what was historically a very significant building, that was also a great boost for economic development. I thought at some point, if they continue with that name, we might want to make sure people understand where the name came from. I think we’ve lost some of that historical significance.”

Kochmar said she finds the proposed high-tech elements of Federal Way’s Crystal Palace to be intriguing and exciting.

“I think it’s interesting too … (the idea of) glass based electronic technology, where people can interact with information displays and Internet access. That’s just fabulous,” she said. “There are a lot of interesting concepts in this whole building. I just wanted to kind of emphasize those things so people really understand what it is we’re talking about here.”

Background info

ARCADD, an architecture firm based in West Newton, Mass., was selected by the Federal Way City Council to move forward on a proposed “Crystal Palace” design at the vacant parking lot on 20th Avenue South. During the council’s July 19 meeting, ARCADD president Dr. Hisham Ashkouri presented an ambitious design of flowing metal and glass structures.

The preliminary design would include approximately 500 residential units, 12,000 square feet of office and retail space; 50,000 square feet of recreation, cinema, restaurant and entertainment space; and 75,000 square feet of the “crystal palace” space. It also would have an underground parking structure and a large but undefined amount of public open space.

Ashkouri said part of the plan would be to complement the proposed performing arts and civic center slated to be built downtown on 20th Avenue South near the Federal Way Transit Center.


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