Downtown Park and Redmond Central Connector plans are in the works

People like what they’ve seen and heard so far, and City of Redmond Parks Director Craig Larsen said there’s more good things on the horizon.

Craig Larsen discussed the Redmond Central Connector last Friday at the Redmond Senior Center.

People like what they’ve seen and heard so far, and City of Redmond Parks Director Craig Larsen said there’s more good things on the horizon.

Starting with the Downtown Park — in its infancy stages on 161st Avenue Northeast and bordered by Redmond Way and Cleveland Street — Larsen noted that he wants it to be a “living room for downtown residents” at last week’s First Friday Coffee Chat at the Redmond Senior Center.

Larsen, who has been a parks director for 34 years (six with Redmond, four with Lynnwood and 24 with King County), feels the Sundays in the Park musical performances have been a solid start for the two-acre space, which will eventually be a gathering spot for arts, music and family events and feature a bandstand, coffee shop and more. (Half of the property is covered in grass now while the city completes acquisition of the remaining acre.)

The city is planning for a grand-opening event come 2018-19.

Cleveland Condominiums resident Linda Gonzalez, one of 15 attendees at the chat, said she enjoyed listening to the jazz band in the park near her residence on a recent Sunday.

“I sat on the deck and had dinner. It’s fantastic,” she said. “(Redmond) is getting better all the time.”

Added Larsen: “We envision the park full of people, full of busy activity going on.”

For the past two and a half months, red tables and chairs have sat on the sidewalk near the park as an invitation of sorts to draw people in; people have used them and none of them have been stolen, Larsen said.

City staffers want the new park — which is estimated to cost about $8 million for design and construction — to knit Redmond Town Center with historic Redmond and stimulate economic vitality and spark residential growth downtown. Presently, there are 1,500 downtown residents, Larsen said, adding that 5,000 more residents are projected to make downtown their home by 2030.

Also in the city’s plans is raising the level of Cleveland Street to the same height of the sidewalk to accommodate more people during larger events that will use street space and to slow traffic on non-event days.

Resident Jodie Miller stated her concern about children not knowing where the sidewalk ends and the street begins when cars are present. Larsen said the city plans to feature landscaping, street furniture and changes in color from the sidewalks to the street to remedy any possible problems. They also plan to meet with representatives from Lighthouse for the Blind to define sidewalk edges.

“Parents can say, ‘Don’t go past the blue,’” Larsen said as an example.

Added Miller: “I’m really impressed that they’re doing this research.”

Next on Larsen’s agenda at last week’s chat was the Redmond Central Connector, a 100-foot wide, 3.89-mile linear corridor that extends from the east end of Bear Creek Trail in Redmond Town Center right through the middle of downtown and then north along Willows Road to Northeast 124th Street.

By 2025, the plan is to create an award-winning trail/park with a heavy art element, complete with multi-use gathering places, as well as pedestrian and transit connections, including light rail. The connector will be part of a regional trail system, connecting the Bear Creek and Sammamish River trails.

“We want this to reflect the past, present and future (of Redmond),” Larsen said. “After a meeting or having dinner with your family, I want this to be the first place you go. A destination place, an interesting gathering place.”

Larsen envisions the people walking and cycling on the trail to stop off in downtown Redmond to dine and shop and enjoy events like a Saturday market and more.

Since the trail will cross a number of streets, Larsen hopes people travel slower than they would on the Sammamish River Trail. “We hope they experience the space rather than blast through it,” he said.

The first phase will begin construction in October and will include a 1.1-mile trail connecting the east end of the Bear Creek Trail to the Sammamish River Trail. The master plan, design and construction of this phase is estimated to be $5.2 million.

The cost estimate for Phase II and III to the north is $4.35 million.

The Redmond Senior Center’s next First Friday Coffee Chat on Oct. 5 will feature Janeen Olson with Redmond Ready, a campaign to encourage personal preparedness among citizens.

The chat will be from 10-11 a.m. at 8703 160th Ave. N.E., in the Fireplace Lounge. Registration for First Friday Coffee Chats is not necessary. For more information on the program, call (425) 556-2314.

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