Sunday, February 13, 2011

Skyscrapers Dead. Long live tall buildings (editorial)

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So reports Federal Way Mirror.

When you look at that artist's rendering, you might actually be glad - the scale of these is a little bit obscene.  When the tallest building in Federal Way is 8 feet tall (we exaggerate - there are some taller buildings - none of them near the "center" of town) this would have looked odd.

But at the same token, we take issue with the wholesale pleased tone the city leaders have and the seeming desire by some to build yet another park.  Parks are great and the city has some nice ones, but if the city is to have a real downtown, it needs to build it.  Because the parking lot next to Sears is really a poor substitute for a downtown.

But if Federal Way does want to aspire to something more than a couple of exits off the freeway between Seattle and Tacoma where "that former paper company now known as Quadrant used to have its headquarters" (just projecting here, folks), it needs to do something.  Now, 45 stories was too much, but how about a some serious mixed-use transit-oriented-development that takes advantage of the proximity to the Transit Center and makes the Link Extension more of a no-brainer that they can't get built quick enough?

Granted, there is an abundance of commercial real estate available, but it's not great commercial real estate.  It's far-flung.  Even if it's close to residential, it's not close to the kinds of services people need to close to their work places.

Building a solid downtown needs a real commitment from leadership to get it done.  And there's really only three options: aim to be Tacoma's Bellevue with gleaming skyscrapers and high paying jobs and the rising land values that come with it, or develop a charming pedestrian-friendly "old town" with small scale shops and housing closer to the freeway that will bring local tourism (see Monrovia, California's Old Town) or continue to be a sprawling ugly blah of one-story gray concrete buildings intersected by six lane roads of perpetual congestion and speed/red-light cameras.

As always your comments are welcome.  The regulars will no doubt offer wise words that make us feel foolish, but fine, discourse is good.

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