City aims to turn old rail line into downtown connector

The City of Redmond held a community visioning event to celebrate its acquisition of the Redmond section of the former Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Corridor on Sept. 15.

Carolyn J. Hope (left) senior park planner with the City of Redmond

The City of Redmond held a community visioning event to celebrate its acquisition of the Redmond section of the former Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Corridor on Sept. 15.

A downpour forced participants to grab umbrellas or scramble into tents, but music by a group called the “Toy Boats” and “park bench” interviews conducted by representatives of Seattle-based theater simple brought a touch of whimsy to the festivities, at the northwest corner of Leary Way and Bear Creek Parkway in downtown Redmond.

The Redmond Central Connector includes a 3.89-mile-long linear corridor that extends from the east end of the Bear Creek Trail in Redmond Town Center to Northeast 124th Street.

“The railroad has been at the heart of Redmond since the city incorporated,” explained Carolyn J. Hope, senior park planner for the City of Redmond. “As the city grew into a suburb, the railroad began to divide the city — the north from the south, the new and the old and the industrial from the commercial. Over the past 10 years, the city has continued to develop further into an urban center. In 2008, the railroad abandoned the tracks in Redmond. Now the rail corridor is in the hands of the city and it is time to revitalize Redmond again as the Redmond Central Connector.”

The plan is to make the corridor a lively place with pedestrian and transit connections, places for neighbors to meet and mingle and increased visibility for nearby businesses.

“Redevelopment of this corridor will both redefine the heart of Redmond and respect Redmond’s history,” Hope stated.

The city’s goals for this project are to create an award-winning park/trail corridor, incorporating art and entertainment as well as transit options like light rail.

Repurposing the corridor should ultimately make downtown Redmond an enticing destination — not just a place to drive through, from point A to point B. That, in turn, will benefit downtown merchants and increase economic vitality.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, a Democrat from the 48th Legislative District, who attended the event and took a walk along the corridor with Redmond Mayor John Marchione.

“Walking along the corridor gives you a new orientation on Redmond,” Hunter commented. “It gives Redmond a center that it doesn’t have now — it makes urban centers and density be cool and fun, not ugly or industrial. The condos here are selling out. People want to be part of this.”

Downtown Redmond resident Mary Kellison confirmed that notion.

“I love it here. I moved here so I could walk to shopping and entertainment. In fact, I just walked over here for this event,” said Kellison.

Guests at the event were asked to jot down ideas about what would make the park most appealing, how the corridor can express

“what Redmond is all about” and how it can function as a multi-modal transportation center.

Comments from this visioning event and other community feedback will be used to develop alternative conceptual designs, which will be presented for review at a public meeting, tentatively scheduled for November.

If you missed the visioning event, you can still be part of the planning process. Visit http://www.redmond.gov/insidecityhall/parksrec/parksplanning/BNSF/BNSF.asp or e-mail comments to Carolyn J. Hope at cjhope@redmond.gov.

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