Developer explores downtown project scenarios the federal way
At a special session of the Federal Way City Council on November 9, Community Development Director Keith Niven provided updates to the Town Center 3 plan. The long-range downtown development plan is an ambitious project that will take over property near the Performing Arts and Events Center (PAEC) and the site of the former Target building that was Demolish it now.
Nevin told The Mirror that the biggest change since the city’s last modernization can be seen in potential plans for the north-west building, which currently houses an extended space that could become the council chambers in the updated city hall.
He said incorporating the new City Hall into the Town Center 3 plans has multiple potential benefits, but would add costs to the city for the plan. City employees outnumber current City Hall, so the need for a new location will continue no matter where they land.
“We had to turn storage rooms into offices for people,” Nevin told The Mirror. A fee for central city services in the Town Center 3 area would also make it more accessible to voters.
“It’s hard to get to this building if you don’t have a car,” he said of the current location on Eighth Avenue South. For Federal Way residents who use public transportation and want to attend a City Council meeting to provide public comment, for example, they can use the 903 DART bus to get to the meeting, but if they stay after 7:20 p.m., they will have to walk a mile Almost to get to any bus that is late at that time. Getting to the police station or other city services can be equally difficult, he said, and moving City Hall to the new downtown project will put it closer to the city’s transportation hubs.
Community space is also part of the Town Center 3 plan discussion, but is not the main focus. Nevin said the current development draft would include flexibility for the city to work on fundraising to pay for city hall in the Town Center 3 project and any additional community resources.
Moving from the current City Hall building means the city will have to sell the assets of the building itself. As with other cities in the world of repetitive hybrid work, there is high demand for housing, but low demand for office space.
The city reviewed six proposals from different developers in February 2023, then shared a letter of intent to award the contract to OneTrent Development. The city has been negotiating the agreement in May and a draft development plan since then.
Nevin said the goal was to present a draft development agreement at the Nov. 9 meeting, but that ultimately wasn’t possible, so he’s aiming to hold a Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting in December instead.
The proposal for Town Center 3 includes notes on several code departures, including one related to affordable housing.
“You shouldn’t look at anything in a vacuum,” Nevin told The Mirror when it comes to the reason for this departure.
Looking at other nearby housing construction projects scheduled for the next decade, Nevin said Sound Transit will build needed housing to include 80% of the nearby affordable units. Sound Transit will also sell 5.5 acres of land after it no longer needs it for building, and that will likely go toward more housing, Nevin said.
Nevin said refraining from including affordable housing units in the Town Center 3 development plan could provide more financial flexibility. The money saved by not including affordable housing may mean that rental costs for retail businesses may be slightly lower, or that they can offer homes for sale at a different price.
At the Federal Way City Council’s special meeting about the project, Councilman Jack Duffy raised concerns about the idea of affordable townhouses, meaning those who would benefit from affordability would not be those who wanted to represent the city.
“This will be the front of our city,” he said. “I’m all for townhomes, but I hate to err on that side, we’re going to make them more affordable because your front door might be something you’re not happy with.”
Developer Trent Mummery responded by saying: “There may be some transfer of economic factors that may make it easier to purchase but that doesn’t mean it will look and behave differently.”
“I don’t think having the 38 units or saying they’re affordable, I don’t think that’s an oxymoron, I think we should make them available for people to purchase by all means,” Councilwoman Lydia Assefa Dawson responded.
When asked how the large-scale development project would prioritize Federal Way businesses, employees and contractors in its construction, Mummery said they “didn’t talk about it much.”
Mummery added that he is looking forward to what this development can bring to Federal Way: “We believe this will be an incentive for your city to create a viable, walkable downtown.”
Another community benefit and motivating factor for this development is that it will give other potential investors a baseline comparison on potential mid-rise residential projects, Nevin added. This would be the first of its kind in Federal Way, and until there’s an initial jump into this type of construction, potential investors can’t turn to any hard data to see how a similar investment would perform here.
Council President Linda Kochmar asked about the parking ratio, which includes a roughly 1:1 ratio of parking spaces compared to the number of residential units. Mummery shared that this is the highest of any project OneTrent has completed. As a prolific real estate developer, OneTrent has completed at least 25 developments similar to the Town Center 3 proposal.
OneTrent’s website shares that their specialty is in Opportunity Zones, adding, “Our community-focused approach unlocks the potential of underserved areas resulting in successful, high-performing projects that also serve as assets to the neighborhoods they become a part of. We believe that thoughtful design, local knowledge and industry expertise It can deliver an exceptional experience for our partners, residents and communities alike.