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Judy Fessler

As a past president of both Redmond’s Landmark Commission and the Redmond Historical Society, I have been watching and nudging the city to look beyond total demolition and redevelopment of the block containing the old Safeway/City Hall building.

I and others have continued to nudge the city to at least save the Safeway building for arts, entertainment, a museum or another purpose. Over the last two years, the city entertained developers to place the entire block to condos, apartments, parking structure, etc. At this time, the developers felt it just didn’t pencil out for them.

Many times things happen for a reason. The city even offered to foot the bill for demo of all the buildings. Now it appears, the city wants to demo the block on their own and put in a parking lot to help the downtown and the SCP Redmond hotel.

In the meantime, the city has also purchased another piece of property behind the old Parr Lumber. Would it be enough for Hotel Parking? According to minutes of DURAC (Down Town Urban Renewal Committee), this parking lot proposal would be a temporary fix for three-to-five years.

Would it create more problems for everyone to realize it might then be gone if development happens? If the Safeway block was saved, there still is the old city parking lot. I believe there are more than 23 places to park for the Hotel right now.

I did attend a City Council Meeting and spoke on the citizens agenda for three minutes, but what I wanted to emphasize to the council is that they step back and consider more options for the block. They just finished the city’s 2040 plan.

I wanted to emphasize that the city appoint a special committee to look at what types of businesses, ideas and services could be tried for the economy to incubate for the future. Our downtown is synergistic with the Hub of the City and beyond. I think this special committee, endorsed by the city, can be a representation for the future such.

It could include High School and COCC students, the Small Business Administration, with outreach to others who can also think outside the box. These buildings could be used as an incubator business.

The committee could be tasked within a certain timeline set by the city. We can do something different. We might even be able to secure a stakeholder for repair of buildings.

The Museum was in one space in the old City Hall until about years ago and Redmond Proficiency Academy was in two other spaces. They were serviceable buildings with water, lights and sewer. I also wonder if creating jobs in the building would allow it to qualify for urban renewal money.

In a story that ran in the Dec. 18 Spokesman, a city analyst was quoted as saying the buildings were “essentially unusable.” I would like to clarify that the Safeway built in 1940 as an architectural and construction prototype for all Safeway stores in the Northwest .

Included in the construction was a very NEW process (in 1940), for full lumber trusses for the roof of the building, enabling any new reuse to use the full 10,000-square-foot building as a blank canvas.

Kudos to Redmond for saving the Redmond Union High School building for the new city hall, but the city can also save another key block, not for just the real estate, but for the future of commerce and a special identity for Redmond. Let’s not be just another cookie cutter city.

The time to get involved is NOW. The Downtown Urban Renewal Advisory Committee and council met Dec. 17 with a landscaper to make a plans for demolition of the entire block.

I encourage you to contact Chuck Arnold, the city’s economic development and urban renewal program manager, at 541-923-7761 or chuck.arnold@ci.redmond.or.us to voice your opinion.

Judy Fessler is a former president of Redmond’s Landmark Commission and historical society. She can be reached at jfess2014@ gmail.com.

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