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August 15, 2013

Redmond planners use videos to help people understand new projects and the city's vision

  • The videos narrated by city officials offer snapshots of private and public development downtown.
    Journal Staff Reporter

    Rendering by GGLO Architects [enlarge]
    Project renderings, such as this one of the 85th Street Apartments, accompany the videos on the city’s website.

    Redmond Square Apartments has units built over an alley. Penny Lane Townhomes comes with in-floor radiant heating and Vision 5 has 96 mini-suite apartments with common kitchens and artist work spaces.

    Those are among the details you learn by watching videos narrated by Redmond city officials that offer snapshots of private and public building projects in the city's downtown.

    Jeri Rowe-Curtis, Redmond's chief communications officer, said the goal is to offer information about the city's vision for downtown and answer questions about projects built, under construction or planned there — to give them life by inviting viewers into the spaces.

    “To me, that was what was important, that was what was missing,” she said. “In this day and age with YouTube videos and things happening so quickly, we need to be more engaging.”

    Accompanying the videos on the website at http://tiny.cc/67or1w are a brochure and maps that provide more details about the projects and place them in relationship to each other.

    Rowe-Curtis said Redmond is fortunate because it has in-house video production, including a studio.

    She said the private projects detailed in the videos are “a smattering of what's going on” downtown and some were picked because they won design awards.

    The videos were produced by Patrick Hirsch, who was Redmond's senior videographer until recently, and by Chip Cornwell, a video specialist with the city.

    Rowe-Curtis said she would like the city to make more videos, including about the Overlake area. But just keeping up with changes in projects already showcased takes agility and planning, she said.

    “The challenge for us then is to keep videos fresh and current in terms of what's evolving and changing in those projects,” she said. “It's a model I would really like to be able to use with many of our other capital construction projects.”

    The videos avoid official-speak. They give the project's location, using common points of reference such as across from the old post office or from city hall. For private development, they note the number of stories and housing units, size of retail space, start and completion dates and unique features.

    The videos also offer details of public projects, such as a two-acre park the city plans downtown.

    B Sanders, a senior park planner with the city, tells the viewer the park is part of the city's effort to focus growth and economic development downtown and that the “urban destination” may come with a great lawn and plaza with a covered stage.

    For the Redmond Central Connector, Carolyn Hope, Redmond park planning and cultural services manager, explains that the trail will provide new links between Old Town and Redmond Town Center, as well as connect with other trails.

    Getting in front of a camera isn't the easiest thing, but at least Redmond senior planner Gary Lee had some preparation. Lee, who is in a lot of the videos, said he has done a little acting and modeling on the side, but “it's still always nerve-racking.”

    The trick is “trying to get the whole spiel out” in as few takes as possible, he said.

    In the videos, Lee is listed as a contact person for the private developments. One consequence is that some people who want to live in Redmond call him to get a line on how to rent an apartment.

    “One day I ended up trying to find the phone (number) of a leasing agent,” he said.

    Rowe-Curtis began her job a year ago. She said her goal was to bring together the departments, including public works, planning and parks, to coordinate “messaging” about projects to help people better understand why the city is moving forward with them and why there might be disruptions due to construction. “I think a video helps to tell that story in an engaging way,” she said.


    Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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