Cynthia Mullis (right) and her bandmates perform on Cleveland Street as part of the City of Redmond’s “We Dig Downtown” campaign. Samantha Pak

Cynthia Mullis (right) and her bandmates perform on Cleveland Street as part of the City of Redmond’s “We Dig Downtown” campaign. Samantha Pak

City encourages people to shop local through ‘We Dig Downtown’ campaign

With road construction continuing in downtown, the City of Redmond has started a campaign to encourage people to buy local and support businesses in the neighborhood.

With road construction continuing in downtown, the City of Redmond has started a campaign to encourage people to buy local and support businesses in the neighborhood.

Jill Smith, an economic development manager for Redmond, said the goal of the city’s “We Dig Downtown” campaign is to acknowledge that construction can be frustrating and ask residents to continue supporting businesses.

“If you love these businesses, still come,” she said. “Don’t stay away.”

According to the Dig Downtown website at wedigdowntown.com, locations for the events, featuring entertainment, will vary, but the city’s information tent will be along the Redmond Central Connector (RCC) and Leary Way.

“Boundaries for your hunt to find the fun are Redmond Way to the north, RCC to the south, 160th Avenue Northeast to the west and Leary Way to the east,” the site states.

CATCHING LOCALS’ ATTENTION

Dig Downtown began earlier this month, with entertainment on Mondays, which will run through Oct. 31. Three events have been held so far, featuring Sambatuque and Taiko drumming, interactive chalk art and saxophonists. Future events will feature barbershop quartets and a capella groups, a tropical-themed night, brass bands, jazz and a Halloween event.

Terry Morgan, the talent consultant who has worked with the city to arrange all of the entertainment, said the different types of entertainment will hopefully put some more energy into downtown and give people something to do.

Monday’s saxophone night had the musicians serenading drivers along Cleveland Street between 161st Avenue Northeast and 164th Avenue Northeast as well as trail users along the RCC near Leary Way, catching the attention of some drivers and their passengers as well as passersby walking around downtown.

Smith said these eight weekly events will be held while the round-the-clock construction is taking place on Redmond Way as the city prepares to convert the street (as well as Cleveland Street) into a two-way. After that, the closures will be mostly during the day.

She added that once the entertainment series is complete, they will use other methods such as social media campaigns and advertising — the latter of which is already being done — to continue encouraging people to support and buy local.

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS

Since construction began earlier this month — which has resulted in parts of Redmond Way being reduced to one lane — businesses have been feeling the effects.

“I’m very excited for the end result but the process is painful,” said Brian Venable, owner of Edge & Spoke ski and bike shop at 7875 Leary Way.

Venable said since construction started, customers have told him that they do not want to come downtown anymore. To accommodate this, the shop has pushed its hours back to 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. so they are open longer when traffic has died down.

While Venable said this has helped, his sales are down compared to the past two Septembers by about 20 percent.

Edge & Spoke isn’t the only one who has had to adjust the way they run their business in light of the construction.

At Taqueria El Gallo at 16720 Redmond Way, #A, owner Gamaliel Garcia said they have seen an increase in their online delivery service. He said they have offered the service — through merchant sites that will pick up and deliver food to customers — for about a year and they have seen more customers utilizing it since construction started in downtown.

“We can definitely see that,” Garcia said.

Initially, he said the restaurant’s walk-in traffic was not affected by the construction but once construction began closer to their location, they saw a decline in their dine-in traffic. Lunch time for them, Garcia said, is now half of what it used to be even though nothing has changed except the construction.

“We’re open same hours,” he said. “We’re keeping everything the same, regardless of the construction.”

For JD Klein, owner of Minuteman Press 16292 Redmond Way, their new customer business is down by about 50 percent.

“We’re kind of at ground zero here,” he said, referring to where a lot of the construction is currently being done.

Klein said people see their signs when they drive by but with the road closure on Redmond Way and people avoiding driving on that street, Minuteman Press has seen a decline.

To make up for this, he said, they have increased their online presence as a lot of their services could be set up online. In addition, Klein said they can also deliver finished products to their customers for those who would rather not come in person to pick up their items.

“Don’t let the construction get in the way,” Klein said about encouraging customers to shop downtown.

SUPPORTING EACH OTHER

Venable, Garcia and Klein said they have been receiving weekly communication from the city regarding the construction work and what they should expect in the upcoming week.

Venable said the city has been fantastic with their communication as well as their efforts to drive traffic to downtown businesses — from Dig Downtown to signage stating that businesses are open.

“They’re trying,” he said.

However, it is hard to change people’s behaviors and the drop in business is “unavoidable” as fewer people are coming downtown.

Despite these struggles, there is still a sense of community in the neighborhood.

Venable said when he has walked in downtown, he has stopped to talk to other businesses. And while they are in the same position as him and are struggling due to less traffic, the people he has spoken with have positive things to say about the project. It’s just the current waiting that is painful.

Klein is also working on reaching out to his fellow businesses in the area to let them know that Minuteman Press can help them promote their business during the long slog of construction.


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