Federal Way began in the late 1800s as a logging settlement. By the 1920s, Federal Highway 99 was complete, linking the community to the economic centers of Seattle and Tacoma, and suggesting a name for the young community. The name Federal Way was first used in 1929 when five existing schools consolidated operations into School District #210 and planned construction of Federal Way High School next to Highway 99.
By the end of the 1950s, the community featured a number of housing areas and a 10-block commercial district with a shopping center and family-oriented theme park. During the 1960s, residential development continued, providing homes to Boeing engineers and Weyerhaeuser executives. Retail growth followed, including the construction of SeaTac Mall (now The Commons at Federal Way) in the mid-1970s.
Rapid retail and residential growth created significant changes in the community during the 1970s and 1980s. Desiring controlled, quality growth and community identity, Federal Way citizens organized to form what was then Washington's sixth largest city, incorporating in February of 1990. In November 2010 Federal Way citizens decided to change from a council-manager form of government to a mayor-council form.
Today, the Federal Way community is residential and commercial with a population employed locally and in neighboring cities such as Sea Tac, Kent, Tacoma, Bellevue and Seattle. An estimated 22,485 people are employed within the city limits.
In the years since incorporation, Federal Way has fostered quality commercial and residential growth, and enhanced the quality of life for its residents with infrastructure improvements, diverse recreational opportunities and high-quality parks. The city's Comprehensive Plan
looks to Federal Way's future and includes plans for a vibrant City Center, with mixed-use commercial and residential development in the downtown business area and access to public transportation.