Downtown Walk and Talk event brings in 100 people, highlights Central Connector artist

Seattle artist John Fleming discusses the art he has planned for the Redmond Central Connector at Thursday
Seattle artist John Fleming discusses the art he has planned for the Redmond Central Connector at Thursday's Walk and Talk event in the downtown.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

Traffic in downtown Redmond briefly came to a stop Thursday evening as about 100 people crossed Leary Way between Cleveland and Northeast 76th streets.

But this wasn't a group of people unaware of the crosswalk just a few steps away on Cleveland Street. They were part of a Walk and Talk event put on by the pedestrian advocacy group Feet First. The one-mile walking tour highlighted the city's new Redmond Central Connector (RCC) and artist John Fleming, whose work will be featured along the linear park trail.

Carolyn Hope, senior park planner for the City of Redmond and project manager for the RCC, said the main goal of the event was to introduce Fleming to the community and get people familiar with his work: The tour began in an empty storefront at the bottom of the Veloce apartments downtown, which had been converted into a temporary art gallery to feature some of Fleming's past artwork (below).

Fleming also spoke during the tour and described some of the art he has planned for the RCC, including a large rock-filled structure representing a glacial erratic, or a large boulder formed during the Ice Age. The commissioned piece will be located just southwest of the intersection of 166th Avenue Northeast and Cleveland Street. It will incorporate Redmond's past with the use of the old rails from the former Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) line that previously occupied the trail space as well as the city's present status as a high-tech community with an interactive LED light feature.

"The stone's going to be talking with you," Fleming told the crowd, adding that in the future when East Link light rail arrives, the piece could potentially flash and speak to announce the train's arrival. "It isn't just about visuals."

Fleming said he has been very involved in the planning process for the RCC and has worked closely with the city and the Berger Partnership, the landscape architecture firm leading the design team. He said in addition to the commissioned work, the park will have art throughout, from benches along the trail to the surfaces of designated gathering areas.

In addition to celebrating Fleming's work, the Walk and Talk was an opportunity for people to get a better picture of what the RCC will look like as they walked a portion of the trail.

"It's a lot easier to imagine what could be," Redmond City Council President Pat Vache said.

Vache was among a number of elected city officials in attendance, including Redmond Mayor John Marchione, who spoke briefly at the beginning of the event.

"We value walking," he said.

Marchione (above) said he has noticed a lot more pedestrians in the downtown now compared to when he was first elected mayor.

This was one of the reasons the City of Redmond partnered with Feet First on the event. Hope said the city's push to encourage non-motorized modes of transportation aligned with the Seattle-based nonprofit's work to ensure all communities in the state are walkable.

Thursday's event was Feet First's seventh Walk and Talk and Executive Director Lisa Quinn said it was their biggest. She said the high attendance was "so amazing" and a testimony to how many people are ready for the changes coming to Redmond and the intersecting interests of arts and parks in the community.

Peggy Williams is definitely ready. The Redmond resident lives just outside of downtown and attended the Walk and Talk to learn more about the RCC, which she is very excited to see completed.

"I think this trail and what Marchione has in mind as it develops more and more, it's a wonderful idea," she said.

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