Federal Way is going in the wrong economic direction | Livingston
Our city planners encourage us to focus on developing a plan for the 7 acres the city owns adjacent to the Federal Way Performing Arts and Events Center (PAEC), which is primarily a parking lot and includes the former Target building.
PAEC currently serves as the anchor tenant adjacent to this area, which means we need to think about the role the arts will play in creating a vibrant destination location for our future.
CEAP opened its doors in 2017 with great fanfare and high expectations. It is truly an exceptional performance venue and event center capable of serving our city for many decades. From the start, the challenge has been to match expectations with the realities of a suburban city that is becoming increasingly working-class and a consumer market that has less disposable income, less free time and is in competition with big screen TVs for entertainment.
A community core of PAEC advocates are still committed as the nonprofit Federal Way Performing Arts Foundation, and from day one of PAEC’s opening, they have been involved in creating access programs that allow young people of our region to familiarize themselves with the performing arts. Their banner program, Arts 4 Youth, plans to feature seven events in 2022-23. The goal is simple – to connect today’s youth with opportunities to experience live performance, learn how it works, while captivating young minds with imagination, energy, joy and the possibilities of life.
As a society, we are all still dealing with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 shutdown and pandemic concerns. Live shows ceased, theaters and schools were closed, and our lives shifted to Zoom rooms and big screen TVs for our connectivity and entertainment.
CEAP can bring us out of our shells and reestablish live entertainment as an essential part of our lives.
During the pandemic, the arts foundation’s activities were curtailed, but they were able to bring CEAP in December 2021, through the efforts of CEAP’s managing partner, Oak View Group, a cinematic representation of “Polar Express.” This show proved to be a vibrant community connector for the arts foundation, creating an attendance of over 400 parents and children at a time when COVID-19 protocols made it difficult to gather together. Many participants were first-time PAEC users.
The arts foundation is aware that it needs to begin to re-engage with the community as a facilitator to bring the performing arts to young audiences. To kick off their 2022-23 programming season, they are hosting a gala dinner and Broadway show on October 15 at PAEC.
The gala entertainment for the evening is a show entitled “A Night in Memphis”. It is interpreted as a musical tribute to Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. The show tells the story of one night in 1956, when they shared a microphone in a recording studio.
The musical talent of these artists defined the music scene for several generations and their impact today as musical talents is still relevant. Come to the gala and be treated to the four cast members who starred in the Broadway version of the show, “Million Dollar Quartet.” If you are interested, please contact the PAEC ticket office.
Events like the Arts Foundation Gala help Federal Way become a popular destination for live performances, special events and regional meetings. Our collective challenge is to make our city a vibrant community of arts, events, performances and people.
Our planners know that their efforts to redefine our city’s currently uninspiring commercial center into a vibrant regional resource require the creation of a unique public space with the land the city owns. The arts work best when there is a natural synergy and relationship with what brings people together to live, work and play.
PAEC, as Federal Way’s premier performing arts provider, together with the stewardship of Oak View Group, is a competent resource for community building. But for now, it floats like an island in a sea of mediocrity, light rail construction, adjacent to our Town Square Park which some circles call “The Needles Park,” and our ever-present homeless campsite over the city. staircase designed to improve walking.
We have to worry about what our leaders are doing. We build special civic resources with the goal of creating a better future for all, yet we surround some of our most valuable real estate with subsidized housing and poverty. What result are we expecting?
Becoming a better community seems to have been hijacked. All cities have some level of subsidized housing, and our city has 4,100 subsidized housing with more on the way. This is the highest number of units for any city in King County, excluding Seattle. We have 11% of our housing stock subsidized. As we trend towards increased poverty, how are we going to expand our tax or residential base to attract wealth and higher level jobs to build a valued and desired destination city?
The city planners know that they are pushing the rock of Sisyphus up a hill. Until the people of Federal Way wake up and realize that their complacency allowed our leaders to build the rock, change will not happen.
The next few years are critical. Federal Way is going in the wrong economic direction. The city should have done more to protect its investment in the vicinity of CEAP. Leaders may have tried, but never fully understood, that poverty has a tipping point that intensifies crime and social ills while deterring quality development.
Many cities have used the arts as a bridge to help beleaguered development areas move from poverty to areas of respectability. PAEC was intended to be the cornerstone for driving change and improving Federal Way. Its purpose has not yet been realized. As a driver of change, he needs a supporting cast.
A public visual arts facility combined with a plaza, public market, brand hotel, higher education center and city hall can create a clarified purpose and synergy for the target development area. The question is, with all the clumsy development choices made to date, will the city be able to attract business, residential developments and next-level services to be part of the redevelopment of our core business? Retail ? Will our community actually support higher level development, the arts – or even healing?
Our city has tough challenges, but we can and should support CEAP and the arts foundation gala. Plan to attend their free holiday event (open to everyone) on November 26, 2022 – the movie “Elf”.
Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist, and Federal Way resident. He can be contacted at [email protected]