By James Cook

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As a member of a group that has been working with the city of Redmond for the past two years to determine the future of the Evergreen Gym, I was disappointed with the tone and conclusions of The Bulletin’s Nov. 30 editorial, “Supporters of Redmond’s gym should get busy.”

Beginning as an outreach of the 2015-16 Leadership Redmond Class, we have been working to preserve the gym and adapt it for use as an event and cultural center for Redmond. Our efforts have included public meetings, presentations to community groups and numerous discussions with Mayor George Endicott and city staff.

We have had to deal with the reality that the city does not have unlimited financial or staff resources and their priorities have been elsewhere. Nevertheless, staff has been generous with their time, and progress has been made. Planning for the gym’s future was added to the City Council’s list of goals for 2017, and the recently released cost study for renovation of the gym came about as a direct result of our conversations. It represents the first modest step toward determining the building’s fate. While the numbers may seem daunting ($4.2 million in hard costs and $1.3 million in soft costs), we now have realistic costs and an evaluation of the structure to use as the basis for decision making.

While we have focused our attention on the gym, we also recognize that, whatever the gym’s fate, the city needs a civic space near Redmond’s core that can accommodate meetings, conferences, receptions and performances. Anyone who has ever tried to schedule an event near downtown recognizes the lack of such a space is a serious obstacle to the revitalization of our urban core. In fact, a civic center, conference center and performing arts facility are all included in the Downtown Redmond Urban Renewal Plan Update produced in 2011.

How the city meets those needs and what role the gym might play in meeting them remains to be determined. We are at the beginning of the process, not the end. But Redmond recognizes that we must focus not only on economic opportunity but also on quality of life if our community is to remain an inviting and welcoming place to live, whether you’re growing a family, a business or both. Providing those amenities has never been solely the responsibility of the city or private citizens. Our city moves forward by working together. Redmond has leveraged a variety of public funds, grants, donations and private capital for projects ranging from the new City Hall to Hope Park to the ongoing redevelopment of the Redmond Hotel. We will continue to do so in the future.

Ultimately the fate of the gym, of downtown and of Redmond itself will be decided by our citizens and our city government working together to achieve the best outcome for our community. The decision will be based not only upon the dollar costs, which we now know, but also upon the gym’s value to the community, not just as a building but also as a part of our heritage. A heritage that we choose to honor as we build our future.

That’s the way we do it here.

If you would like to learn more about our efforts to revitalize the gym and bring an events and performance space to Redmond, you can contact us at info@evergreenculturalarts.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/evergreenculturalarts/.

— James Cook lives in Redmond.

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