Redmond Mayor John Marchione and Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger discussed their cities’ overlapping problems and priorities at the April 16 lunch meeting of the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce.
Introducing Degginger in the Community Room at Matt’s Rotisserie and Oyster Bar, Marchione joked, “You’ve been here so many times we don’t have to give you directions or a passport,” and talked about the importance of “ongoing dialogue in a respectful and collaborative manner.”
Degginger pointed out personal similarities between himself and Marchione — they both grew up on the Eastside and chose to come back and raise families here. As mayors of neighboring communities, Degginger added, “Constituents don’t care where the lines are, between Bellevue and Redmond. Your economy is our economy. Your employers are our employers, too.”
He talked about the “challenge of the transportation system, not a problem we face alone,” and “hope to get the (SR) 520 project up and running sooner rather than later,” as well as better ways to connect Eastside cities and improve mobility between them.
Marchione said his vision for Redmond is for two strong and vital economic centers — “one in Overlake, one downtown” and reiterated, “When people are there to shop, work or play in Overlake, they don’t care whether it’s Bellevue or Redmond.”
He invited everyone to Redmond’s April 24 Budgeting by Priorities meeting at Redmond City Hall (www.redmond.gov/BP) and said, “To work on issues for Redmond is to work on the problems of the region.”
A guest asked Marchione if he wanted to see a Bellevue-type skyline in downtown Redmond. “No, I see four to six stories maximum with retail on the ground level,” he replied. By contrast, new buildings in the Overlake center will have a nine-12 story limit and it will be “more urban in a traditional sense.”
Degginger continued, “There’s no way Redmond can fulfill its vision for Overlake except by coordinating infrastrucuture — otherwise, what we’ll have is a train wreck.”
The mayors agreed that the highly populated Redmond-Bellevue corridor is severely underserved by bus service — and that more capacity for transit and carpools on 520 is critical.
“Right now, 520 gets us to Burgermaster,” said Marchione, but the stretch east of I-450 is always jammed. “And with high gasoline prices now our second criteria, this issue is much more on people’s minds.”
Adding more opportunities for “inclusionary housing” is another big challenge for the whole Eastside, said Degginger.
“Not everyone makes the wages to be able to live here,” he said, referencing the number of people who commute to jobs at Bellevue Square from as far away as Federal Way and Tacoma.
Marchione wrapped things up with mentions of more ways for people to bike to work, such as connecting roads which now “dead-end” and bringing more single-family housing back to downtown Redmond, which in recent years, “has been hollow.”
Chris Hoffman, CEO for the Redmond Chamber said an April 30 meeting (at a time to be announced) will concentrate on issues for downtown Redmond businesses along the Cleveland Street and Redmond Way “couplet.” For Chamber information, call (425) 885-4014 or visit www.redmondchamber.org.