It’s been more than a century since Frank and Josephine Redmond pitched their first homestead tent near the land that would later become their namesake city. It’s safe to say they wouldn’t recognize Redmond today – what began as a sleepy, canal-fed agricultural town has become a bustling city with the potential for enormous growth.
Redmond was incorporated in 1910 and began to grow quickly after electricity and the Oregon Trunk Line Railroad reached the area in 1911. By 1930 the city had a population of 1,000 and that number nearly doubled over the following 10 years. In the 1940s, Redmond was selected as a U.S. Air Force Base and government-sponsored runway improvements meant the start of commercial service to Robert’s Field Redmond Municipal Airport after World War II. Growth slowed during the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and most of the ‘80s as residents focused on creating a small commercial/retail center and growing manufacturing industries, but during the 1990s the city’s population exploded along with the populations of other cities in Central Oregon.
Between 2000 and 2006 the city’s population increased by 74.3 percent, with the number of residents currently topping 23,500. Redmond is one of the fastest growing cities in the state and spectacular views, comparatively affordable living, plenty of employment opportunities, friendly people and a host of recreational activities within driving distance make it easy to see why.
While Redmond has had its growing pains – a downtown taken over by semi trucks, overcrowding in the schools, maintaining a proper amount of developable land – residents are known to get excited about improvements and are willing to work together and make compromises to affect change.
“There’s a real spirit of cooperation, much more than you see in most communities,” said Redmond City Manager Mike Patterson. “You take a look at Redmond and there’s issues and problems and all that, but people work together. They seem to generally want to work together and there’s just a lot less divisiveness than just about any other community I’ve seen.”
Jean Wood, the vice president of M.H.I. Development who oversaw Redmond projects such as the Airport Business Center, Frank’s Landing and The Campus Within the Park, said it’s the people who make Redmond special.
“Redmond is a wholesome community where people really care about being involved and volunteering,” she said “They’re the workforce, they’re the backbone, they’re the middle class. They’re you and me. It’s not a community where there’s a big separation between the haves and have-nots, and it’s not a community that wants to be a league in any way. It wants to be inclusive and comfortable and really cater to the average, hard-wording Central Oregonian among us and yet still diverse and providing the kinds of opportunities that everyone can afford to participate in.”
Tourism and construction have replaced lumber and manufacturing as the major industries of the city in recent years, but with 300 acres of industrial land currently on the market at a reasonable price, more land to be brought in to the urban growth boundary and several large businesses such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot preparing to set up shop, Redmond’s commercial prospects are looking good.
“I think the future certainly is bright and optimistic for Redmond being located in more or less the geographic center of Central Oregon and having the airport here and the events center, there’s a lot of attraction to commerce and as a result I think the potential is going to continue as it has been,” said Bud Prince, manager of Redmond Economic Development, Inc. “We’re certainly on a very positive direction to create more industrial type businesses here, as well as I think Redmond is starting to come into its own in the commercial sector.”
Prince said several other improvement activities taking place in the city will help when it comes to creating more economic opportunity.
“We have several larger stores coming to town and the completion of the bridge across the dry canyon on the north end opens up the north end of the business corridor, where I think we will see a lot more commercial business,” he said. “There’s a big area zoned commercial up there and I think now it’s going to be able to start being developed and a lot faster than it has in the past.”
Downtown revitalization efforts and the Highway 97 bypass will also help. Redmond Mayor Alan Unger said the bypass should be completed by September of 2008, if not sooner.
“As the reroute pulls trucks and traffic out of our downtown, we can start rejuvenating and building our downtown into a place that really has an attraction for people to congregate,” he said. “We will continue to grow, hopefully at a steady pace and not this breakneck speed, and we will continue to offer the services and the ability for people to have a great quality of life right here in Redmond.”
Wood said she would like to see more new development in the downtown area in addition to refurbishing of old buildings.
“I think it needs to happen,” she said. “I think that it’s wonderful to do adaptive reuse and historic preservation and take some of these old buildings and turn them back into the way they were. We need to create some blocks of old town kind of stuff, but I also think that having a little neighborhood that has new construction in it, it stimulates a different kind of energy and starts to create the new Redmond. And having the new right side by side with the old, it’s charming and wonderful.”
Finding land to develop is always an issue in Oregon, but the city has been working to solve the problem. Two years ago they brought 5,700 acres into the Urban Reserve and brought 2,700 northern acres into the urban growth boundary last year. Patterson said the city has big plans for the land.
“We’ve been working with a group of developers and property owners out on the northwest side of town and that’s a fairly important project that’s been worked on over the last couple of years,” he said. “It’s just about done and we will be presenting our plans to the council.”
Patterson said the development will be mixed use, with room for some much needed residential land. City records show 2,500 residential building permits were granted between 2003 and 2006 with more than 1,900 homes built to house an added population of 6,050. The land may also solve another problem the city has been grappling with – the need for a new high school.
Mayor Unger said Redmond High School was constructed to house 1,200 students and is currently bursting at the seams with more than 2,000 students.
“Schools are required to be built by the community, by property owners, so that makes it a challenge for people not wanting to pay on their property taxes to build schools,” he said. “I think the school district just told us they need $200 million worth of schools in the next 20 years according to our comprehensive plan. What we really need is a new high school and it’s going to cost between $70 and $80 million. It’s going to be an impact of around $1.50 per $1,000 on people’s property tax bill. It’s hard for people to swallow that.”
Patterson said despite the cost, it needs to be done to ensure a good quality of life in Redmond.
“Without the new high school we are, as a community, really in trouble from the educational perspective,” he said. “…It’s the situation where we really desperately need a second high school and other schools will have to happen. We’re going to have to do something for our children.”
Patterson said the city is currently in negotiations with the school district about purchasing land to build the new school.
Wood said no matter what happens, she is confident the city is doing the right thing to make Redmond a great place to live.
“They’re really creating communities and not just approving subdivisions,” she said. “So it becomes a very, very livable community and the kind of community that is efficient and ecologically sound. There are a lot of things being done right that Redmond really does deserve a lot of credit for. They’ve been very proactive in setting things in place to assure they’re going to have a quality future.”