Master planning for Downtown Park to begin next year

It's just an open patch of green space right now, but that will change in the coming years as the City of Redmond plans to transform a two-acre parcel of land downtown into a "signature" gathering space.

It’s just an open patch of green space right now, but that will change in the coming years as the City of Redmond plans to transform a two-acre parcel of land downtown into a “signature” gathering space.

City park planners presented short-term and long-term plans for the Downtown Park at Tuesday night’s Redmond City Council study session at City Hall.

“It’s not much right now, but we want this to be a signature space in the city,” City of Redmond senior planner B. Sanders told council members during the presentation.

The city plans to start the master planning process for the park early next year, which will involve gathering input from community members, according to Sanders.

The park, at 16101 Redmond Way, is located between Redmond Way and Cleveland Street and bounded to the east by the 161st Avenue Northeast extension, which was completed last August, and bounded to the west by the historical Stone House.

The park has already taken some shape with the creation of a large open, green space on about half of the planned park site as part of the 161st Avenue Northeast extension project.

City officials are encouraging residents to use the current space and get involved in the planning process.

“We’re still very early in the process and we have not yet started the master planning process for the park,” Council Vice President Hank Margeson said after Tuesday’s meeting. “We need much more citizen input in order to develop the best park possible.”

The downtown green space is open to the public and the city is working to promote the space and inviting residents to give their input on what they would like to see as part of the Downtown Park.

The city started a new Summer Sundays in the Park series with live performances and has also installed red tables and chairs around the perimeter of the park to encourage residents to use the space.

In 2010, Council approved funding to acquire the eastern portion of the property for the Downtown Park. A year later, the 161st Avenue Northeast extension project provided grading, irrigation and seeding for the first half of the park.

The city has acquired “95 percent” of the Downtown Park properties and plans to demolish six buildings to the east of the green space early next year, Sanders told the council.

Once the demolition is complete, the city plans to do $100,000 in “interim improvements,” including installation of a crushed-rock path and plantings along Redmond Way, Sanders said.

“Next spring, we are proposing to demo those buildings and do interim improvements so it will be a better space than it is today,” Sanders said.

The city will then engage community members during the master planning process while it works to secure funding for construction of the park.

Sanders said the city hopes to find funding for the project by 2016, admitting getting money for construction of the park “will take a while to gather.”

Sanders said the master plan will dictate construction costs, which she estimates to be between $5-8 million, “depending on features and other factors including the economy.”

The design work will begin sometime in 2017, with construction anticipated to start in 2018, Sanders outlined in her presentation.

But the first task at hand is to find out what Redmond residents want featured in their Downtown Park, according to council member John Stilin.

“Funding is always a concern,” Stilin said. “But we still have a lot of work ahead of us to identify the features and amenities Redmond citizens would like to see in their park.  With that task complete we will have a better handle on the funding challenges and trade-offs that may need to be made.”

Some of the park features that the city is considering are a water feature, an art installment, botanical garden and play areas for children, Sanders said during her presentation.

“The Downtown Park is unique among Redmond parks because it has the potential to be a focal point for civic events and activities versus a more active recreation park such as Grass Lawn,” Stilin said. “I like to think of it as Redmond’s equivalent to New York City’s Central Park, only on a smaller scale.”

Margeson said he feels the Downtown Park will provide a needed gathering space for planned density in the downtown neighborhood.

“We need to preserve some open space to relax and interact in a positive way with our neighbors,” he said.

City Council approved the site selection of the Downtown Park in 2009 and now that almost all of the land has been acquired, planning and design work are the next steps.

Margeson said he likes the idea of building an attractive Downtown Park, but emphasized that the community will need to get involved to make it a special gathering place.

“I want to see space for public gathering, like a small stage for performances, some shade trees, a water feature, coordinated vendor services, like a mobile food or beverage service and room for residents to toss a Frisbee and play croquet or bocce ball,” Margeson said. “I’m very interested in hearing what our residents want as well.”

Sanders said the Downtown Park “will be a great addition to downtown,” as it can be a meeting point for special events, such as Derby Days, along with being a neighborhood park for downtown residents.

“It’s going to make people see downtown Redmond in a whole new light,” she said.