A city project that’s been in the works for almost a decade will soon open to the public, as Redmond plans to celebrate the completion of its new Downtown Park next month.
The grand opening, set for 5-10 p.m. on Sept. 15, will feature a ribbon cutting, community picnic, theatrical performance and digital art installation in the city’s first urban park, which is located at 16101 Redmond Way.
The park is bordered by Redmond Way, Cleveland Street and 161st Avenue Northeast, and is next to several new six-story buildings, but down the street from the city’s historic core; The Stone House sits right outside the park’s southeast corner.
Downtown Park is a “capstone” on the many changes that have come to the western half of downtown Redmond in the past decade, said Mayor John Marchione.
“Every great downtown has a great park,” Marchione noted, who said he first proposed the idea in 2007. The new park will be that “signature place that serves as a destination, an icon for the city, and a catalyst for economic growth,” according to the city’s website.
The surrounding area is growing fast. There are 2,500 residents in downtown Redmond currently, compared to 200 residents 10 years ago, Marchione said. The city decided that the increased density would be placed in two areas — Overlake and downtown — to preserve the Redmond’s existing single-family neighborhoods and maintain the city’s character, Marchione said.
That decision brought about a lot of other changes, including the conversion of Redmond Way and Cleveland Street in downtown from one-way to two-way streets, the opening of more than 20 new restaurants and the development of the Redmond Central Connector, which flows “seamlessly” into Downtown Park.
“I ran for mayor and I suggested that downtown needs a downtown park,” Marchione said. “If we’re going to put our density in downtown, we have to create a complete neighborhood and that includes parks and other amenities.”
Marchione said the 2.2-acre parkland was acquired when the city extended 161st Avenue Northeast to complete its street grid, connecting Redmond Way and Cleveland Street to Bear Creek Parkway. The park is in a walkable area, and close to the future light rail station.
Marchione said he envisions the park as a gathering place for the community and a space to foster cross-cultural connections in a city that’s growing in population and diversity.
“It’s all about bringing our community together to celebrate and get to know each other,” he said.
The park is meant to be a flexible space, with a variety of places to sit and play, including a large deck and a splash pad with 30 water fountains. The park will also have 1,930 plants and 117 new trees, with 50 percent canopy coverage when they’re mature.
Downtown Park will not only serve as a “backyard” for downtown Redmond residents, but also as a space for events and art installations. The incorporation of art is what makes the park special, said interim parks and recreation director Rachel Van Winkle.
The centerpiece of the park, a pavilion designed by Jill Anholt, is Redmond’s “first ever integrated arts structure,” said Lisa Singer, who works for the city’s public works department and is the project manager for Downtown Park. It features a digital water wall, comprised of about 380 metal rods and illuminated by about 30 LED lights.
“The back water wall has the ability to do digital projections…and uplighting programming,” Singer said.
Redmond’s current artist-in-residence Maja Petric will show her digital art installation at 8:15 p.m. during the park’s opening celebration. On other evenings, a lighting design based on the different seasons will be displayed from dusk until 11 p.m., when the park closes.
The pavilion will be a weather-protected venue for hot sunny days and wet winter evenings and can also be used as a stage and performance space. At 6:15 p.m. during the opening, Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders will put on a performance inspired by the metamorphosis of Redmond’s downtown.
Neare, who is known for her “whimsical, site-specific performances,” also performed at the park in 2012, when it was “just a piece of grass,” said Jessica Rubenacker, cultural arts administrator for the city.
Along with the pavilion, other park features include a raised lawn, a “dining grove,” a plaza, restrooms and a drinking fountain.
“It’s really designed for everyday use for folks who live in Redmond and also to be highlighted for varied types of public events,” Singer said.
City staff members said they’re excited to see how the park will be used on a daily basis and for events like Redmond Lights, So Bazaar, markets, food truck rodeos and more. The portion of Cleveland Street bordering the park was designed without curbs, so the road can be closed during events.
See www.redmond.gov/downtownpark for more.