City, businesses communicating as downtown Redmond construction projects continue

As public and private construction continues in downtown Redmond, business owners in the neighborhood have growing concerns about how these projects are affecting their businesses.

These concerns were brought up at last month’s board meeting for OneRedmond — a public-private organization focused on economic and community development.

OneRedmond CEO Bart Phillips said their role has been to communicate to the City of Redmond the issues the small businesses have been experiencing as a result of the city’s couplet conversion of Redmond Way and Cleveland Street as well as private construction projects.

According to the city’s website on downtown projects, there are eight private projects in various stages of development, construction or completion. About half of those are located near the couplet conversion project.

SEEKING SOLUTIONS FOR COMPLICATED ISSUES

With so much going on, Phillips said one of the main issues businesses have been facing has been the unpredictability of when they would be impacted.

He also acknowledged that there is no easy solution.

“You would think it’d be simple,” Phillips said. “But it’s not.”

He said OneRedmond has also been working with the city on how to improve things.

Phillips said during last month’s meeting, board members — on behalf of downtown businesses — outlined four main requests for the city: improving how the city manages traffic impacts; improving coordination among different projects to reduce impacts on businesses and customers; improving daily communication with businesses so construction impacts occurring in front or near them are not such a surprise; and getting the word out that downtown Redmond is open for business and parking is available.

In response, the city came back with a number of actions they will take to address these concerns.

“We owe it to our businesses,” said Jill Smith, economic development manager and downtown liaison for the city.

She noted that while some of the things they are now doing are new, there are also some things the city has been doing since the couplet conversion project began but they may not have been widely known.

Smith said she is now the point of contact for any project in downtown — public and private. While she may not always have the answer to people’s questions, she said she will know who to ask.

In an effort to better address these concerns, the City of Redmond has taken steps to improve its communication with businesses.

According to a OneRedmond e-newsletter, the organization will continue to monitor the situation and share any observations or issues that may remain.

GETTING AROUND

To better manage traffic impacts, Smith said they have put up large variable message boards inviting people to use Bear Creek Parkway as an alternative route.

In addition, she said, in the city’s weekly email about construction, they have included a map of downtown Redmond that highlights alternative routes, including Bear Creek Parkway, State Route 520 and West Lake Sammamish Parkway by vehicle and the Redmond Central Connector (RCC) by foot or bicycle.

The city has also restriped the lanes on Redmond Way to make things clearer for vehicles, Smith said.

PROJECT COORDINATION

While the various projects in downtown have already been coordinating among themselves, Smith said it wasn’t clear to everyone that this was happening.

She said project managers meet once a week to discuss things such as delivery and closure schedules to coordinate with each other to minimize impacts. Smith now attends these meetings and includes pertinent information in the city’s weekly construction email.

Examples of this coordination include utility companies upgrading their private utilities at the same time, rather than having projects do the work at separate times and tearing up the same area multiple times.

IN-PERSON COMMUNICATION AND COORDINATION

If there will be work that will directly impact a specific business, Smith said they will increase communication and coordination with the owners.

For example, she said when Samila Boutique on the corner of Redmond Way and Leary Way Northeast told them spring break was a busy time for them because high schoolers would be coming in to shop for prom dresses, crews did their best to keep that part of the street and the shop’s parking lot accessible.

According to the OneRedmond e-newsletter, the city has also increased their inspection staffing out in the field to provide more boots on the ground to deal with issues as they come up. Project managers and inspection staff will provide Smith with information about what is going on that week — both in public and private projects — and Smith will include this in her weekly emails.

In addition, the city has come out with a mid-project update to all businesses to inform people that Smith is the point person and to call her if there is a construction-related issue.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

The city has also launched a “HI Redmond” campaign to promote downtown businesses.

Smith said this campaign, which launches today, focuses on the people behind the businesses and will include additions to the pink sandwich boards already in downtown, posters, window clings, videos and a social media component.

The business directory on ExperienceRedmond.com has also been updated so people can better learn about downtown businesses.

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