Redmond dangles $500,000 downtown 'prize'

Urban renewal district hopes forgivable loan will lure business

POSTED: 10:04 PM PDT September 24, 2013 
REDMOND, Ore. -

A half-million dollar lure is hanging over downtown Redmond, and community leaders hope a new business will come in and snag it.

Downtown Redmond has endured months of construction, a cosmetic and engineering makeover to update the city's main "drag."

And now ,city officials are ready to bring some excitement downtown.

"(There's) not as much investment is happening there as we would like to see in our city center," Community Development Director Heather Richards said Tuesday.

Richards said population growth over the last few years has taken a toll downtown. The highway was rerouted to the east and commercial growth moved away from the main streets, in the form of big-box stores.

Now Redmond's Downtown Urban Renewal District is looking for a new anchor business to affirm its identity.

It's taking proposals from investors interested in setting up shop, and dangling the large reward in the form of a forgivable loan, up to 20 percent of investment costs to entice new businesses.

"We're at that tipping point," Richards said.  "We could be funding a $2.5 million project in downtown Redmond -- that would be a game-changer."

Projects must bring in shopping, dining, entertainment or lodging to get the funding.

RIchards said they want to attract people to spend time and money downtown.

Investors can either build their own space or renovate an existing building.

Paulina Springs Books owner Brad Smith said Tuesday he'd like to see a new type of traffic out his window.

"It's all about customer traffic, and really a matter of getting feet on the ground," Smith said.

Smith said he's excited to see what business moves in -- and hopes it will inspire Redmond residents to shop local.

"(It's about) establishing Redmond downtown as a place for Redmondites," Smith said.

Other business owners say they're weary of what's to come.

"The more big-box stores that come in here, the less opportunity there will be for small businesses," said Lauran Torres, owner of the Butterfly Yarn Shop.

But the city thinks a new big business could be a boost for everyone, and drive Redmond into the future.

"(We want to) construct a successful project which will demonstrate that moving forward investment in downtown Redmond will be successful," Richards said.

The downtown urban renewal district is accepting proposals from now until January. It hopes the new business will open up in the next couple years.