FW City Council takes big step on TC-3, discusses crime stats

Federal Way took another big step on reshaping the heart of the city.

The Federal Way City Council unanimously voted during its meeting April 18 to award a contract for, and initiate negotiations with, developer OneTrent for work on the TC-3 downtown project.

TC-3 is part of an ambitious plan to transform the city’s informal downtown area — generally agreed to cover the area around South 320th Street that includes the Commons mall, Performing Arts and Event Center (PAEC) and upcoming light rail extension.

The work will begin with the destruction of the blighted former Target building next to the PAEC, which city officials estimate will happen in late spring or early summer.

Developer OneTrent has offered $10 million to buy the properties. The city would collect an estimated $8.4 million in one-time construction sales tax from the proposal, and OneTrent would also pay $30,000 to cover some staff costs.

The city officially began the search for a developer in March 2022 when it released a request for proposals on how to build the space from developers. In November, the council was presented with the current plan for TC-3 and authorized the city to move forward on it.

The city sent out another request for proposals on building TC-3 earlier this year, receiving six proposals from developers.

“At the end of the day, the recommendation the city preferred was OneTrent,” Community Development Director Keith Niven said at the meeting. “This was really the best proposal the city got.”

For one, the developer proposed the construction of about 50 townhouses in the development — giving residents a chance to own their home, not just rent. They also engaged with the city on the viability of including a hotel in the development, Niven said.

Mayor Jim Ferrell shared some related good news from the city’s trip to Washington, D.C.: U.S. Rep. Adam Smith has added the TC-3 to his list of requests for congressional appropriations, asking for $2.5 million for the project.

“The fact it landed on that list is really good news for us,” Ferrell said.

Crime and justice

Earlier in the night, the council heard a report on crime trends from Police Chief Andy Hwang, who also addressed concerns shared with the Federal Way Police Department that certain crimes, like aggravated assaults, were being misclassified or unreported in the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

Hwang said the result of a $50,000 outside investigation into those concerns “found no evidence that crime numbers were intentionally manipulated or underreported.”

A few citizens pressed concerns about the crime data accuracy during public comment, asking the city to make the investigation open to the public and address their concerns that crimes were being “downgraded” in the reporting system.

“We took action,” Ferrell said during the meeting. “We spent $50,000 for a report, and you heard today that nothing was found incorrect. We did everything that was required of a public, transparent agency, and we’re not going to do any more.”

Hwang and Ferrell added that the report and investigation are public documents that can be requested from the city. The Mirror has filed a request for that NIBRS complaint, report and ensuing investigation.

On the statistics front, overall crime increased by 6% from 2021 to 2022, Hwang said, driven largely by motor vehicle thefts — which rose from 946 reported to 1,494.

Hwang laid some of the blame for those increases with recent legislative changes in Washington, including limitations imposed on police vehicle pursuits and the drug laws passed in response to the Blake decision.

“In Washington in general, we’ve been more lenient with offenders,” Hwang said. “There’s a lack of accountability, particularly in our region.”

Auto theft in particular has drastically risen, Hwang said, and due to the pursuit law, officers frequently have to let suspects with stolen cars go.

“That is the imbalance that exists — that offenders have more rights than victims in this state,” Hwang said.

Residential burglaries are down to “some of the lowest numbers we’ve seen,” he said, falling from 318 to only 232 last year. Hwang attributed that change to better home security systems and the fact that people are spending more time at home. Commercial burglary fell by a tiny margin from 458 to 454.

Homicides fell from 11 to 8, while aggravated assaults rose from 293 to 324.

Also on Tuesday, the council:

Unanimously authorized the city to start ordering parts to repair the city’s Opticom Pre-Emption system, which allows emergency vehicles to manage traffic signals when they are rushing to an emergency. The repair cost is $85,000. Public Works Director EJ Walsh said there are a few intersections in the city where Opticom components have failed. Nationwide, the Opticom system decreases the response time of emergency vehicles by 25%, and reduces crashes of emergency vehicles in intersections by 70%, Walsh said.

Ceremonially swore in three new entry-level police officers: David Pollock, Adnan Ihsan and David Agapov.