The City of Fife has warehouses, car dealerships and housing subdivisions.
Fast-food restaurants and gas stations entice drivers to pull off Interstate 5. Parks and a new public library beckon local residents to stop for a visit.
But there’s no true downtown. At least not yet.
Officials in the North Pierce city are creating a plan to guide development of a city center over the next 20 to 30 years. An open house is scheduled Wednesday to gather ideas from the public.
“We have an open canvas,” said Kory Edwards, a former Fife City Council member who now sits on the city’s Planning Commission. “What I hope starts to come out of this is creativity. We’re so early in the process, we have the opportunity to do something great.”
The city has a location in mind: roughly 0.5 square miles around the 54th Avenue East-I-5 interchange. The area sees heavy vehicle traffic during the day; it isn’t a place where pedestrians can easily dart across the street to browse shops and eateries.
That could change, officials said, with development of a Fife city center complete with housing, retail and other businesses, along with mass transit connections and better pedestrian access.
Fife is not the only city in the South Sound to try to carve a central core from a patchwork of suburban sprawl.
Neighboring Federal Way has struggled to do so. University Place has staked its fortunes to a Town Center complex but has had a hard time drawing private investment. Bonney Lake in recent years has tried to create momentum for a walkable downtown after years of questionable planning split between three distinct business districts.
In Fife, a broad vision will be formulated in the next few months; strategies and policies, such as design standards for developers, will follow later.
Establishing a city center “is not something that is going to happen overnight,” said David Osaki, Fife’s community development director. “(But) if you looked at Fife 30 years ago, it was a farming community. In a 30-year period, you can see a lot of change. There’s a lot to be said for planning now.”
There also are regional transportation changes on the horizon, including I-5 interchange system improvements, the extension of state Route 167 and perhaps the extension of light rail through Fife one day. All of those could support a city center, officials said.
The design firm KPG, which has offices in Seattle and Tacoma, is leading the vision process as part of its work to help Fife update its long-term transportation plan.
The city, with its deep agriculture roots, is bisected by I-5 and has become a hub of industry and commerce. It’s home to about 9,200 residents, but its population more than doubles during daytime hours.
Philip Waldner, who’s lived or worked in Fife since the mid-1960s, said he wishes planning for a city center would have started long ago.
Developing around the 54th Avenue interchange makes sense because it formed the business core decades ago , he said.
“It kind of brings it full circle,” said Waldner, who owns Fife Towing off 34th Avenue East and is president of the Fife Milton Edgewood Chamber of Commerce.
Sara Seeger, who co-owns Fife Flowers on 54th Avenue off the interchange, said she’d like to see a park on her side of the freeway, and also a grocery store.
“Being able to walk to other shops on the street would be great,” she said, standing in her business on a recent morning. She added that she’d “love more storefronts that would attract families and children, and people who want to buy flowers.”
What: Community open house on Fife city center plans.
When: Wednesday, 4-7 p.m. (Drop in for as long as you want.)
Where: 2111 54th Ave. E.
information: David Osaki, city community development director, by email at email@example.com or by phone at 253-896-8633.