Federal Way Council unanimously approves Performing arts and Conference Center

The Federal Way Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the Performing Arts and Conference Center, which will feature a 700-seat auditorium and performing arts space. - Artist rendering
The Federal Way Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the Performing Arts and Conference Center, which will feature a 700-seat auditorium and performing arts space.
— image credit: Artist rendering

The Federal Way City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved moving forward on the proposed Performing Arts and Conference Center slated for the city’s downtown core area.

The Council committed the city to approximately $32 million to build the facility, with all saying the time is now for the city to move on revitalizing the downtown core.

“When I first moved into unincorporated Federal Way in 1972, it was a land of great potential,” said Councilman Bob Celski. “Forthcoming were many of the great features and assets that we now enjoy as a community. Things like the Aquatic Center, Hylebos, the BPA Trail, Wild Waves. I could list 40 or 50 assets that we have now. There were a lot of people who took risks developing those assets.”

“But really, what has become of our downtown core?” Celski continued, reiterating his previous thoughts on the project and why he was willing to support the center. “There’s so much potential in the core, yet so many questions … There’s risk in this endeavor, like there was in all the other assets we have in this city. But in my mind, there’s really much more risk in doing nothing, and walking that area 10 years from now having it look the same as it does now. And [there’s too much risk] in missing an opportunity like the one we have directly in front of us today.”

“I think the [performing arts center] is going to be a harbinger of good things to come for our city,” said Councilwoman Kelly Maloney.

She noted that she still harbored concerns regarding the project, especially some of the funding mechanisms the city has explored, such as the federal New Markets Tax Credits program, but reiterated that the center will be a “good thing for our community.”

Councilman Martin Moore said he was voting yes because the center would build a “brighter future” for Federal Way.

“We’re going to move forward, we’re going to build a brighter future so the next generation of folks can come to Federal Way and not go to Seattle and not go to Tacoma or Olympia or out of state … [The performing arts center] provides for the opportunity to really synergize around this opportunity,” he shared.

“I think we’re going to make a decision tonight that is going to change our city,” said Councilwoman Dini Duclos. “I think it’s going to revitalize this city, and I think we’re all going to be very proud that we were part of it.”

Deputy Mayor Jeanne Burbidge said she was supporting the project because it would “result in more pride in our community.”

“It will give others reasons to come to Federal Way. But, perhaps more importantly, it will give many a reason to stay in Federal Way and enjoy what’s here, because of the improved vibrancy of our whole community,” she said.

Lydia Assefa-Dawson, the Council’s newest member, said she too has great hopes for the center.

“When I have visitors, I take them to Seattle and to Bellevue, we don’t do anything in Federal Way,” she said. “So this is an awesome opportunity for us. As an immigrant, I see it as a great place for cultural activities … I see it as an asset, a great opportunity.”

Councilwoman Susan Honda took the time to express her continued concerns, saying she feels some questions haven’t been fully answered. She also worries that the financial commitment to the project would draw resources away from various programs, projects and personnel issues the city needs to address in the wake of the Great Recession. Regardless, she too felt that some concrete step needed to be taken for the project and the city’s downtown core.

“We have a downtown area that desperately needs to be revitalized,” she said.

Mayor Jim Ferrell conceded that he has “experienced growth” on the issue of the center since becoming mayor at the beginning of this year. The mayor retraced the steps he took to address the center in the five months since he took office, touching on the formation of the Blue Ribbon Panel and the members’ presentation of their findings on May 8. It was those findings, Ferrell said, that convinced him the center was right for Federal Way.

“We’ve had a challenge in our downtown, and this is our solution,” he said.

According to information the city provided, the multipurpose facility will feature a 700-seat auditorium that will “serve a growing demand for community performing arts space, as well as serve as a South King County venue for touring acts and performance series.”

In its dual role as a conference center, the facility will host local and regional business retreats and workshops and address the demand for community meeting spaces and local events. The facility will be complemented by an on-site hotel that a private developer will build.

The 43,500-square-foot building will be constructed on an elevated site near the Federal Way Transit Center, with expansive views of Mt. Rainier. In 2010, using $5 million in state funds, the city purchased the 4-acre site for the project. Subsequently, the Council authorized a conceptual design phase. In 2013, the Council authorized moving into project design, development of the pro forma and application for land use permits.

A vacant building on the site is slated to be demolished in July and groundbreaking for the project may begin as early as September. Project construction is estimated to take 18-24 months.

More information is available at


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