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Downtown Businesses Contemplate Relocation as Park Plans Move Forward

City of Redmond is about halfway through property acquisition process.

manager Brian Estrin knows his shop is going to be moving soon. He can't say where exactly, but he hopes it's some place nearby.

"It's Redmond Cycle, so (we) can't move to Woodinville or anything like that," he said.

Redmond Cycle, a local mainstay for more than 40 years, is one of about five properties that the is still working to aquire as part of its plan to build a downtown park. Preliminary drawings indicate the park will be located between Redmond Way and Cleveland Street along what will eventually be an extension of 161st Avenue Northeast.

City Parks Director Craig Larsen said approximately six properties have already been acquired and torn down as part of the street extension phase of the project. The city aims to finalize the remaining property negotiations by the end of the year, he said, and expects to pay a total of about $20 million for the acquisitions.

"We're making progress," he said. “The first part was easy because it was all one big piece, and now it’s much more fragmented.”

Larsen said the city negotiates the acquisition price, which includes a purchase of the property and relocation costs, on a case-by-case basis but said he could not give specific numbers. With every business, he said the city pays a "fair market value for the property" and "a fairly significant amount for relocation."

Building a downtown park has been a goal of the city's for several years, and project advocates say the green space is sorely needed, especially as the central part of town becomes more densely populated. Jeni Craswell, acting director of nonprofit group The Redmond Foundation, said the park will be unlike others in the city in that it will have more of a focus on public events, such as concerts.

"I would see this as a more dynamic park," she said. "Because it's downtown, I think the essence of it is going to be very diferent."

The Redmond Foundation is currently raising funds to help pay for the development of the park itself but is not contributing any money toward the city's negotiations with property owners, Craswell said. Although the relocation process can be difficult, Craswell said she believes the final outcome will be good for downtown businesses.

"Overall, anything that brings people downtown potentially brings people into businesses," she said.

But for some of the businesses that have yet to reach deals with the city, the past several months have been a time of great uncertainty. Marty Banel, who manages an office building and espresso shop next to the bicycle store, said she will likely lose her job because of the acquisition but has not begun to seek employment elsewhere.

"In my position, you take my building away, (and) I'm not going to have a job," Banel said. "Since I have no idea when this job will be over, there's no telling what will be available when it is."

Larsen said he knows the relocation process is not an easy one and that the city works hard to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“It’s a challenge for folks … it’s upsetting and disruptive,” he said. “We’re sensitive to that. We want all these people to stay (in Redmond), so we’re fair, I think.”

If a negotiation cannot be met, Larsen said the city has the right to condemn the property. But he said he cannot recall an instance where the city has resorted to condemnation, and he does not think it will be necessary with these acquisitions.

At Redmond Cycle, the shop's owners and managers seem resigned to the fact that the business must move, even though they don't agree with the park project.

"They've already made up their minds, so there's nothing we can do," Estrin said. "We're at the mercy of the city."

Cheryll Leo-Gwin February 23, 2011 at 06:59 PM
I love the idea of the park. I hope it will include a sculpture park, an amphitheater, and a place for contemplation. It would mean that I will come to Redmond to shop instead of driving to the park in dowtown Bellevue. Marymoore is so filled with soccer fields and other sports driven activities that I don't go there. The park could also be a place for Second Story Theater to provide outdoor performances. An applause for the new park and City planners.
Caitlin Moran February 24, 2011 at 02:22 AM
Thank you for your input Cheryll, and thanks for reading!

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