Redmond Mayor John Marchione talked about how Redmond is on the rise — literally — at last Thursday’s Redmond Rotary luncheon at the Redmond Marriott Town Center.
Marchione, a Redmond native in his first term as mayor, gave a “State of Redmond” slide presentation in front of a few dozen Rotarians, outlining future projects with focus on the major growth planned for the downtown and Overlake neighborhoods.
“We need to accept growth in downtown and Overlake area. … We don’t want to shoehorn our neighborhoods,” said Marchione, who was introduced at the luncheon by his mother Doreen, a former Redmond mayor and Rotary president. “Having quality urban places and choices of where to live make Redmond a richer city.”
Marchione said the big housing demand right now for young and old people are condominiums, which will be a big part of future projects in the downtown and Overlake areas.
One of Marchione’s big platforms when he was running for mayor last fall was to revitalize the downtown area. Marchione and the city are already taking steps toward that end with the $9.4 million Bear Creek Parkway extension project, which is being funded by business tax revenue and through the city’s capital investment program.
THE GATEWAY TO DOWNTOWN
The extension project, which is being called the gateway to downtown, will connect the west end of Bear Creek Parkway to the portion of 159th Place Northeast that connects to Redmond Way. A second phase of the project will connect 161st Avenue Northeast to the parkway extension. The traffic revision project will allow the city to convert the often-frustrating one-way streets in downtown to two-way arterials, which will ultimately give more exposure and better access to businesses.
This will improve traffic, in addition to making downtown more pedestrian friendly, Marchione said.
“This is a big deal for the Redmond City Council because we want to make our downtown a place you want to go,” Marchione said. “We can get more restaurants and shopping in downtown and people will be living there, too.
“We don’t want an empty downtown.”
In addition, Marchione said he plans to propose a downtown central park development to the city council when he presents his budget in October.
“That park could become the jewel of the downtown area,” Marchione said. “It would be an urban park. … A place to gather and have performances.”
When asked, Marchione declined to say where the park would be.
“I going to say the downtown area because if I name a site, the price will go up.”
Downtown also features a new Redmond Transit Center, a joint project between King County, Metro Transit, Sound Transit and the City of Redmond, which opened in February near the existing downtown park-and-ride. Construction crews are replacing the old park-and-ride with a new four-story parking garage, said Marchione, a member of the Sound Transit board. The new parking garage is expected to open next June and the hope is to attract more commuters to take the bus.
Marchione also talked about the River Park Development currently being built next to the KFC on Redmond Way. The two-wing development will feature Group Health facilities, residential housing and an upscale hotel, Marchione said. Construction crews have started digging at the old Tony Roma’s site, where a twin, 4-to-5 story mixed-use complex will be built, featuring residential and commercial space.
“The vision for downtown Redmond is to have a very walkable downtown,” he said.
To keep up with all this new construction, the city plans to install new water and sewer pipes. In addition to a new, much-bigger storm water system will be built underneath what is now the Burlington Northern Railroad, Marchione said.
“New construction can plug into the storm water system in downtown and allow them to use their land to the fullest and allow us to collect the water and manage on system, instead of 250 little systems.”
CHANGING FACE OF OVERLAKE
Marchione also said the Overlake neighborhood is undergoing major changes with hope of easing the traffic gridlock by building housing near Microsoft, one of the region’s major employment centers. In 2007, the city council passed a zoning ordinance, allowing new development up to 10 to 12 stories high, which will allow for more residential and commercial space in an area dominated by Microsoft.
“We’re trying to have a variety of activity in the neighborhood,” Marchione said, “instead of having just one business dominate that neighborhood.”
If the $17.9 billion, 15-year transportation plan passes in November, two light rail stations will be built in the Overlake neighborhood, said Marchione, something he is very excited about. One will be built on the old Group Health site and other will be developed where the Northeast 40th Street Park-and-Ride is located.
In addition, a bridge over SR 520 along Northeast 36th Street will “give us another connection to the Overlake area,” Marchione said.
INSIDE CITY HALL
Marchione concluded his presentation by highlighting the accomplishments “inside City Hall,” which include the following:
• The city credit rating increased to AAA, a jump of two ratings, giving Redmond the highest rating granted to a city. Redmond joins King County, Seattle and Bellevue as the only four entities in the state to have such a high rating, Marchione said.
• Implemented the new budget system, which prioritizes expenditures based on feedback from the community and city departments.
• Restructured the permit system, making it more efficient and understandable.
• Launched a new radio station at 1650 AM, which broadcasts emergency information throughout the city.
• Secured state funding for the Bear Creek restoration project. The state will widen SR 520 from West Lake Sammamish to SR 202, meaning the lower Bear Creek will have to be moved farther north away from the freeway in order to preserve the river’s habitat. Marchione got the state to agree to providing $8 million for the $10 million project.
“I am excited about the changes and growth that we are experiencing,” Marchione said.
“I could talk for hours about Redmond and give you 100 more slides,” he added.