Nokomis Building — Statement of Facts

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THE NOKOMIS CLUB OF REDMOND

 

CASE STATEMENT

The historic Nokomis Building, Redmond, Washington’s first Library building, is scheduled for demolition although the facility is eligible for listing on both the Local and National Registers of Historic Places.  Plans approved by the City of Redmond propose replacing the historic site at 16210 NE 80th Street with a 5-story building composed of 96 sleeping units of 200 square feet each, ground floor retail space of 800 square feet, conference room of 200 square feet, and 29 parking places.  An appeal of the project is underway.

The Nokomis Club Starts a Library

Investment of their diligently earned funds in a project beneficial to the community was important to the Nokomis Club, a Redmond women’s club founded in 1909. Following several years of deliberation, the Club voted by secret ballot to establish a library on March 25, 1927, and opened the first Library October 9, 1927.  The Library first located in a storefront on the main city thoroughfare, Leary Way, and then two years later relocated to a larger space across the street and one-half block north on Leary Way.

The Nokomis Club Invests in a Library Building

Unable to find adequate accommodations for its growing book, magazine, and newspaper collections and reluctant to assume a debt, considerable deliberation took place before agreement was reached to construct a facility specifically dedicated to library use.  The Club found it could pay the cost in cash of $420 ($8,587 in 2010 $’s), and hired an unemployed carpenter to construct the new library on property donated by Alfred and Irene Brown.  Located at 16210 NE 80th Street, the building opened for library service on March 1, 1933.  It also served as the meeting place of the Town Council from 1933 to 1944.  Throughout the 1930’s the circulation of Library items averaged 8,750 per year flourishing despite the severe lack of local jobs that reduced the town inhabitants to 460.

The Nokomis Club Constructs an Addition to the Library

Club members made the decision in January 1936 to build an addition to the Library that was built by Works Progress Administration (WPA) labor and financed by a loan.  The construction cost of the new structure was $1,200 ($24,528 in 2010 $’s) which was paid-in-full in 1942 by the  Nokomis women.  Named The Clubhouse, the addition opened on November 2, 1937, and provided space for income producing activities that supported Library operations.  The additional floor area enabled the club women to serve meals to civic groups, and rent the space to individuals, community groups, and churches.

The Nokomis Club funded, administered, supplied, and maintained the Library from 1927 to   1947.  When the town contracted with the Rural King County Library District in 1947 to provide a paid Librarian and supply the books, the Club continued to furnish, maintain, and repair the  building and also paid the utility charges at no cost to the town.

By 1952 circulation of Library items climbed to 14,268, while Redmond’s population  numbered 573.  At the beginning of 1953 the Library had outgrown its original space, and its 6,000 volumes were moved into The Clubhouse area.

The Library Relocates

When the Library moved off-site in May 1964, 17,000 books were carted to the new location.  Following the move of the Library from the premises, the property no longer had tax exempt status, and the Club was assessed $1,83l in property taxes.  Nokomis members decided to sell the property, but were determined to sell the site to a group who would continue the tradition of allowing the public to use the building.  The Redmond Chamber of Commerce had rented space in the Nokomis Building since 1968, and was the logical choice to buy the building.

The Redmond Chamber of Commerce Buys the Library Building

On October 27, 1971, the Chamber agreed to purchase the building with the conditions that they would pay the property taxes; pay $300 per year for 15 years for a scholarship administered by the Nokomis Club; and allow the Nokomis Club to conduct their monthly meetings in the building for 15 years.   The Chamber President, Ralph Robinson, confirmed the Chamber’s intention in a statement to the Sammamish Valley News on January 26, 1972, when he pledged, “We will continue to use this building as a community service center and meeting place.  We are very appreciative of the Nokomis Club’s activities and of this opportunity to serve the community from our own building.”  The January 26th article further states, “The building will be known as the Nokomis Building in honor of its community-minded residents of many years.”

The Redmond Chamber of Commerce Updates the Interior

The Chamber of Commerce maintained the building in good condition.  During changes in activities during the 1990’s, staff positions were increased that necessitated remodeling of the interior.  Upgraded during the remodel of 1995-96 was the electrical system, and installations included a computer network, cable for the telephone, gas water heater, and gas furnace.  The exterior has remained unchanged since 1937, but the Chamber, hoping to replace the building, declined to take part in the historic preservation program instituted by the City in 2000.

Economic Development

During 2010 economic development took a foothold in Redmond, and the Mayor formed a group, OneRedmond, composed of 35 private businesses and 5 public sector organizations, to promote economic development, which includes land development within the city.  By March 2014 the interested members of the Redmond Chamber of Commerce were incorporated into OneRedmond, and the Chamber was formally dissolved.  With that dissolution, OneRedmond apparently gained title to the Nokomis Building, and under the aegis of OneRedmond, the 5-story building project was proposed by a board member.

The Historic Nokomis Building

Nevertheless, the Nokomis Building remains one of the most historic properties within the City of Redmond.  The building was inventoried in historic surveys conducted in 1998 and 2005, and both surveys recommend listing it in the Local and National Register of Historic Places.  “In view of this recommendation, the association of the building with Redmond, early to mid-20th century history, and the association of the Nokomis Club with women’s history, this proposal [5-story building] would appear to have a negative impact on this historic property,” writes Gregory Griffith, Deputy State [Washington] Historic Preservation Officer, Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, in a letter dated February 26, 2015.  Griffith concludes, “As a result, we recommend that alternative designs/site planning be explored that result in the building’s preservation/re-use on site.”

Invest in retention of community use and preservation of the historic Nokomis Building with your contribution to name.

Author’s Note:

Letter from Redmond Resident, Russ Norman

Contact the Redmond Nokomis Club:

Nokomis Club of Redmond
P.O. Box 7012
Bellevue, WA  98008-1012

Website:  www.nokomisclub98052.com

Crowdrise site:  https://www.crowdrise.com/HistoricRedmondsFirstLibrary/fundraiser/kristenbryant

Nokomis Club of Redmond needs to raise approximately $25-$50,000 in order to pay for legal fees and representation as they appeal the decision to deny the historic significance of the Nokomis building in Redmond.

If you are interested in helping with their fight, please consider donating funds via Paypal on the Nokomis Club website or through their Crowdrise site (both listed above).

Email Interview with Candidate Angela Birney

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A few weeks ago, I asked friends for questions they’d like to ask the candidates for Mayor and the City Council members for the City of Redmond.  I also added a few of my own and came up with a list of 15 questions.

So far, only the two new candidates have been interested in answering the questions; I received an email with answers from Angela Birney, running for Redmond City Council position #5 which will be vacated by the retiring councilmember Tom Flynn December 2015.

I have copied the answers in their entirety; I have edited the questions to be in boldface to add to ease of reading.

  1. Why are you running for Redmond City Council?

As a 17-year resident of Redmond, I understand what makes Redmond an exceptional place to live, work, and play.  I am excited about our future and am committed to making wise investments throughout our city.

  1. What do you think the main obligations of Council members are?

The City Council members are the representatives of the citizens of Redmond.  They establish laws and policies, give input and adopt the city budget, oversee the spending of taxes, and ensure that the city is working for its citizens.

  1. What will you bring to the council position?

I am the current chair of the Parks and Trails Commission and I have served in many volunteer roles in the city and community.  I have experience working with many community groups and have a collaborative approach to leading.  I want to find new ways to include the residents in decision-making processes.

  1. How will you stay connected with the people in the City of Redmond?

I plan on doorbelling this summer.  I also plan on having regular times to meet with citizens about their concerns.  I welcome communication from residents and will continue to use social media to keep the citizens informed.

  1. What projects are you excited about?

I am very excited to see Downtown Park progress. The City has been working on this plan for many years and the project will begin to take shape soon.  The Redmond Central Connector Phase two is also in construction and I think residents and commuters will enjoy its completion.  I am also looking forward to businesses filling in throughout downtown.  The improved walkability is making it easier for businesses to be successful.

  1. What projects would you like to see proposed or planned for the City?

I want to see Sound Transit phase 3 fully funded to continue light rail into Downtown Redmond.  I would also like there to be better connected transportation options for neighborhoods to light rail and the region.  We have a plan to connect trails within the city and I would like to see more investment in that area.

Long-term, I would like to see the Overlake area develop in a way that provides housing and office space yet makes room for parks and other environmental amenities.

  1. What challenges do you think the residents of Redmond face in the coming year? 5 years?  10 years?

Our greatest challenge is the population and work force growth we will see in the coming years.  It will be a paramount duty of the city council and staff to meet the needs of the population while preserving the natural beauty and history of our city. Finding a balance has and will be a challenge into the future.  For example, some of our historic structures in our parks system need attention but we also need to put money into our roads, sidewalks, transportation systems, and staffing needs as our city grows.  Another area for future consideration is some of our buildings (pool, public safety, and senior center for example) that will need further attention and investment.  We will need to find ways to budget for these.

  1. How do you feel Redmond meets the needs of small businesses?   Do you think Redmond could do better? 

I have spoken with a few small business owners in the downtown core over the last few months.  I think the city is improving its permitting process and making it easier for businesses to make improvements.  They also have opportunities for businesses to participate in city processes and changes.  I think there is always room for improvement.  For example, the communication between small businesses and the city in regards to notification of street projects could be improved, as there are a lot of changes going on in that area.

  1. What project or projects would you like to have been involved in and why?

I would have liked to be involved in decisions regarding the appearance of downtown buildings.  The city is now revising design codes, but some buildings could have used improved design standards before they were built.

  1. Do you feel Redmond is in step with other cities of like size and demographics?

Redmond is an unusual city in that the population doubles during the workday.  I think that is a challenge that few cities of our size deal with.  Given that, I think that the city is on the right track in managing the challenges that come from that situation.  We still have room for improvement in managing traffic, giving workers housing options to live within our city rather than commuting from elsewhere, and improving our amenities (parks, restaurants, shopping, recreation) to make Redmond an even better place to live.

  1. What are the short and long term plans to address the growing homeless situation?

The city has a Task Force on Homelessness that recently convened to explore the issues with homelessness.  The task force is exploring short- and long-term solutions.  There is also a King County Task Force.  Currently, there are many nonprofits and churches that provide a wide variety of services to our homeless and low-income populations.  This is an issue that is not going away and is very complicated.  I think the city needs to look at long-term solutions.  What those will look like I don’t know, but I am committed to finding a better solution for our city and the region.

  1. What are the short and long term plans to address the growing crime rate?

There is a levy on the primary ballot in August that will address this issue.  It provides additional police staff devoted to property crime.  Increased enforcement will help as well as improved education of citizens.  It is important that we look out for our neighbors, like the neighborhood watch program, and in general remember that one of the reasons Redmond is a great place to live is that we are a community of neighbors able to look out for each other as well as rely on law enforcement.

  1. How is the city going to mitigate traffic congestion and parking shortages with all the growth going on?

The city is involved in regional programs, Metro and Sound Transit, to give citizens options for transportation.  Much of those programs require funding from the state and county as well as private companies.  If we had better inside city transit that would help with the parking limitations.  Some of what we are experiencing is a change from the small town we were to a larger city.  Residents will have to adapt along with need for some creative solutions from the city.

  1. How do you feel the about the Budget by Priorities method the City currently uses?

The system requires much input from citizens, staff, the mayor, and council.  I appreciate the time and input that goes into the process.  Each budget offer requires prioritization and measurable outcomes in order to get funding.  Like any process it has room for improvement, but having been part of the process in the last budget cycle I think Budgeting by Priorities allows for transparency and conversations about what is important to our city moving forward.

  1. How can the City remain fiscally accountable to the taxpayers?

I think by encouraging citizens to be involved in government. There are many opportunities for all of us to participate in the budgeting process as well as other areas of government.  All of the financials are available to citizens and there are quarterly reports at council meetings.  It is up to us (citizens) to ask questions and stay involved and take advantage of the public opportunities.  And it is up to the city to make this information easily and readily available.

A big THANK YOU to candidate Birney for answering my questions!  You can contact her on her Facebook page, or by email.

Quick Post on Candidate Questions

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I put together a list of questions to ask the candidates for four City Council position and one Mayoral position.  I asked my friends on Facebook and came up with some questions of my own.

I stewed whether to ask them one at a time, in a group email or all at the same time.  I decided to ask each person individually.  I asked the same questions of each of the candidates for Council; tweaked the questions a bit for the Mayoral position.

The questions asked were:

  1. Why are you running for Redmond City Council?
  2. What do you think the main obligations of Council members are?
  3. What will you bring to the council position?
  4. How will you stay connected with the people in the City of Redmond?
  5. What projects are you excited about?
  6. What projects would you like to see proposed or planned for the City?
  7. What challenges do you think the residents of Redmond face in the coming year?  5 years?  10 years?
  8. How do you feel Redmond meets the needs of small businesses?   Do you think Redmond could do better?
  9. What project or projects would you like to have been involved in and why?
  10. Do you feel Redmond is in step with other cities of like size and demographics?
  11. What are the short and long term plans to address the growing homeless situation?
  12. What are the short and long term plans to address the growing crime rate?
  13. How is the city going to mitigate traffic congestion and parking shortages with all the growth going on?
  14. How do you feel the about the Budget by Priorities method the City currently uses?
  15. How can the City remain fiscally accountable to the taxpayers?

Because at this time, she’s the only new candidate running for City Council Position #5, and because I still believe in “Ladies First”, I posed the questions via email to Angela Birney at the email listed on her Facebook page.  She is running for the position that will be vacated by Tom Flynn.

All candidates, including the Mayor are unopposed.  I sent the emails out on May 6th and May 7th to all of the candidates.

I received a response from Angela Birney within a few hours.

Ms. Norman,

Thank you for your inquiry. I will take a look at the questions and get back to you soon with my answers. I appreciate you taking the time to keep Redmond residents informed. 

Regards,

Angela Birney

I received an additional email today (May 14th) that she was still intending on answering my questions, but needed a bit more time.

I received an email response from David Carson on May 7th; requesting that I send the questions to his personal email and not his council email.  I complied and resent the questions to the personal email he provided.

I received an email response from Hank Margeson on May 7th:

Dear Ms. Norman,

This is my city business email and I do not correspond regarding campaign related issues hereon.  Therefore, I am sorry, but I will not be able to provide a response via this email.

Thank you for understanding,

Hank Margeson
Redmond City Council
425-556-2116

This email was cc’d to Michelle Hart, City Clerk.

I responded and asked if he could provide me with a personal email or another way to communicate with him.  I have not received a response from either Mr. Margeson or Ms. Hart with another form of communication.

I have not, as yet heard from Councilmember Hank Myers regarding my email request.

I sent similar questions to Mayor John Marchione, who is running for the position again this fall.

  1. You’ve been mayor since 2007.  Why are you running again for the position of Redmond City Mayor?
  2. What do you view as your main purpose as Mayor?
  3. What will you bring to the position of Mayor?
  4. How does the Mayor work with the Council in our City?
  5. How do you plan to stay connected with the people in the City of Redmond?
  6. What projects are you excited about?
  7. What projects would you like to see proposed or planned for the City?
  8. What challenges do you think the residents of Redmond face in the coming year?  5 years?  10 years?
  9. How do you feel Redmond meets the needs of small businesses?   Do you think Redmond could do better?
  10. What project or projects would you like to have been involved in and why?
  11. Do you feel Redmond is in step with other cities of like size and demographics?
  12. What are the short and long term plans to address the growing homeless situation?
  13. What are the short and long term plans to address the growing crime rate?
  14. How is the city going to mitigate traffic congestion and parking shortages with all the growth going on?
  15. How do you feel the about the Budget by Priorities method the City currently uses?
  16. How can the City remain fiscally accountable to the taxpayers?

His Executive Assistant, Susan Cooper responded via email that the Mayor was out of the office but would see my email when he returned.  I have yet to receive an additional response.

I’ll keep you posted if and when I receive answers to the questions.