When Rosemarie and Jonathan Ives moved to Redmond in 1980 there was only one bridge on Leary Way. When she completed sixteen years of service as mayor there were two more, with a lot of elbow grease in between.
Move to Redmond
Like many who have benefited Redmond, the Ives’s roots were elsewhere. Jonathan was from Massachusetts, Rosemarie from Connecticut. They moved to Arcata, CA, in 1970 for Jonathan to get a masters degree, then to Sacramento in 1972 for him to work at an environmental consulting firm. In 1978, after their son Greg was born, they returned to Massachusetts. But two years later, Jonathan was offered an opportunity to open an office in Seattle for the environmental firm he had worked for in Sacramento. It was too good to pass up. They bought a condo in Redmond and lived there for a year before they put their roots down in house on Education Hill.
One day Rosemarie read in the Sammamish Valley News about a proposal for a shopping mall in the Sammamish Valley. “I thought it was a crazy idea,” she said. Jonathan, whose firm had a couple of contracts with the City of Redmond, told her he had a copy of the environmental impact statement. It was two volumes, each two inches thick. Rosemarie marked it with a neon yellow highlighter. “Before I read it, I didn’t think that the people in Redmond city government were very smart. After reading it I thought they were pretty stupid,” Rosemarie reflects. “Why would we put a mall in the Sammamish valley with its farm fields, cows and blueberry bushes?”
Jonathan suggested that Rosemarie get in touch with Redmond’s Planning Director. But she went straight to a city council meeting and testified against “the crazy idea of the mall in the valley.” Christine Himes, who was mayor at the time, wasn’t at the meeting. But the next morning her secretary called Rosemarie and arranged a meeting. Out of that meeting, Rosemarie ended up serving a one-year appointment to Redmond’s planning commission.
When Christine was defeated, Doreen Marchione became mayor. She asked if Rosemarie wanted to be reappointed to a full four-year term that began in 1983. She ended up chairing the planning commission for two of the five years she served. In that role, she got to know a lot of people, many who were frustrated by the city’s land use decisions for further development. They encouraged her to go from an advisor to a decision-maker.
At the end of that term, Rosemarie ran for city council defeating an incumbent. After serving that four year term, she felt that “I did my good civic duty and thought that that was enough.” That was not to be. Greg was older and she was now free to pursue more full time work beyond teaching investments and financial planning at Lake Washington Technical college that she had done part-time over the previous six years.
Around this time her husband’s uncle, who had worked extensively in government, pressed her. He asked about the incumbent: “Who is more in touch with the people of Redmond?” Rosemarie said, “I am.” It was no secret that her would-be predecessor was very busy spending time outside Redmond, aiming to run for higher office in the region. He asked, “Are you going to run for mayor?” Rosemarie knew that she was motivated by a different vision for Redmond and that she was more in touch with its people. Besides his pressing, “a few things went sideways that made me stop and think,” Rosemarie recalls.
Mayor of Redmond
Greg was thirteen when Rosemarie decided to run for mayor in 1991. He was twenty-nine when her sixteen years of service as mayor ended. Rosemarie’s college education in history and social science, her work in radio and television in New York City and Sacramento, and her experience teaching money management fit well with her new job. Most important was her passion for Redmond and its people, including the Sammamish River that wound through the city.
She loved the river and had a vision for its future. It was a cornerstone of her mayoral campaign in the fall of 1991. As a result of her successful election and sixteen years as mayor, Riverwalk, the segment from the 90th Street Bridge on the north to the Leary Way bridge on the south, was developed with four major river enhancements and a new award winning 90th Street bridge.
There was just one bridge for car traffic when the Ives first moved to Redmond, the one on Leary Way. The 85th Street bridge was constructed in 1983, when she was on the Planning Commission. Then nothing happened for quite a while. One of the issues when Rosemarie ran for as mayor was the proposal for the Redmond Town Center property, to transform the 120 acre golf course into a regional mall. She was against the plan. Those who wanted the project argued that the people of Redmond had nowhere to shop and that revenue was going to other cities instead of staying in Redmond. Rosemarie knew that it wasn’t enough to just fight against the idea of an enclosed mall on the town center site. The question of economic activity in Redmond had to be addressed.
The project she called Riverwalk was her answer. In the 1960s the Army’s Corps of Engineers had channeled the Sammamish River. “We had this wonderful amenity of the river. But the city really turned its back on it,” Rosemarie said. She suggested that the west side of the river should be kept wild. In the 1980s before they were designated an endangered species, the salmon were threatened by lowering water levels in the river. The county had done some plantings on the west side. Rosemarie envisioned the west side called the “wild side,” with extensive habitat restoration. On the east side, she dreamed of having a few small-scale buildings with restaurants on the first floor, places where people could stop for a nice place to eat or drink. She argued that cities with a river, like San Antonio, Paris, Rome, and Boston, celebrate it as a feature and a business area. Rosemarie’s vision was new. For years, the city had treated the beautiful Sammamish like a ditch. She said it should capitalize on the river. It should be a focal point, with different purposes if you were on the east or west side.
Rosemarie’s vision for what a river could be, its walkways and bridges, had roots in her past. She grew up in Connecticut near the Merritt Parkway, a four lane road winding through Fairfield County, where no trucks are allowed. Its 69 bridges, each with their own individually designed and distinct architecture, are renowned and are on The National Register of Historic Places. Raised in a place where bridges were a form of art, Rosemarie brought this aesthetic to Redmond.
Shortly after coming into office, she had a ribbon cutting for a small bridge on Avondale that lacked any architectural interest. She wanted no new “ugly” structures during her tenure. Members of the City’s Design Review Commission were in agreement with her on the importance of design in all built things. Some worked on the plan for Riverwalk on their own time, dreaming about what it could look like and be for the downtown and the whole community. They knew it would take a lot of time and money. It did. But the investment was worth it for all who benefit from the river’s beauty today.
The Sammamish River Trail had long wound along the east side of the Sammamish. Rosemarie wanted to identify the river that was in downtown Redmond. That section named Riverwalk starts at the Leary Way bridge. Aware that bridges stay with the community for a long time and are forms of public art, the existing Leary Way bridge and access point to Riverwalk were enhanced with added design features and Riverwalk signage.
Working on the River
That was just the start. Back then the Sammamish was straight from Leary Way to 90th street. Rosemarie and her team put curves back into the river. They oversaw four successful rechannelization projects. These projects created water volume capacity, ending the flooding that happened in Redmond all the time. Flooding was so bad that manhole covers would float on Redmond Way. The rechanneling also created a lot of natural beauty. Plantings were added on the west and east side and underbrush cleared. For the first time, people on the east side could see the river, with its little island of gravel near the Redmond Way Bridge that is popular habitat for waterfowl and fish. People who walk along the trail today enjoy the sight of blue heron poised, beaver swimming, and salmon on their journey. All in all, four major river projects were completed. One river curve was created south of the 90th Street Bridge; two projects just south of the 85th Street Bridge near the railroad trestle; and one by Redmond Way.
Rosemarie played a part in the Railroad Trestle Bridge. Years before, a train carried butter from the Darigold creamery in Issaquah to Woodinville, and carried T & D Feed supplies from Woodinville to Issaquah, stopping at the T & D in Redmond. When Rosemarie was mayor, many cities in King County in Washington had Burlington Northern (B.N.) railroad tracks going through their jurisdiction. There were conversations about how to handle it. The city of Redmond was very interested in acquiring the B.N. right of way in the city limits. Rosemarie, who didn’t want to take out the railroad ties because she saw the potential of connecting via train to Issaquah, negotiated with B.N. and King County. Six months after she left office in 2008, the formal transfer took place from 124th all the way to where the Whole Food is. She was very pleased that when the next mayor came in, he was able to close the deal. Today the railroad trestle is one of the picturesque bridges on the River, and provides a great view of all the work that Rosemarie and her team accomplished.
Rosemarie’s only disappointment is that her dream of a couple of small buildings with restaurants behind the QFC and Ben Franklin by the river didn’t happen. A design for a wonderful little inn with ninety rooms, an atrium, foyer and restaurants, was quashed. But this is a small regret against the list of accomplishments.
90th Street Bridge
The architecturally designed and national award winning 90th Street Bridge completed in her tenure was special. Like the Merritt Parkway that was named after the man who endowed it, this bridge bears her special touch. Its architecture is distinct. The base-relief of salmon under both sides is a distinguishing feature. The lights on the bridge cheer walkers on the path. The span for walkers over the bridge gives a safe feeling to enjoy the view. The ribbon cutting ceremony was a joyous occasion for Christine with many dignitaries involved.
There was, of course, lots of other work besides the river and its bridges. There were sixteen parks in Redmond when Rosemarie first became mayor. When she left there were thirty-six. Each of the twenty parks has a story. She had a relationship with Don and Elaine Smith who owned a beautiful property north of 116th street. They I knew I loved the city and them. They sold “Smith Woods” to the city at a great deal because “they trusted that I was going to honor their wishes for the property,” Rosemarie says.
Another “gift” came from Dr. Juel, a doctor in Seattle, and his wife, Betty. Today it is known as Juel Park on 116th street. The Juels had owned the property for decades. They and their four children loved to come out “to the country” to ride their horses and enjoy the blueberries grown there. They had been contemplating donating their acreage but had specific requirements. The most important was the preservations of all the trees on the property. The asked to meet with Rosemarie for blueberry cobbler, but really to check her out. “They were very clear on their values. They wanted to know that whoever they give it to would honor their wishes in perpetuity,” Rosemarie recalls.
Much has changed since the Ives moved to Redmond. Many of the changes Rosemarie had a hand in. There are some things now she doesn’t like, like no more flower pots on the corners, the pavement that covers so much of the old green space, and the lost tree canopy. People who chose to live in Redmond now often have different values then the Ives when they moved here so many years ago. Still, the basic principle remains. Making a beautiful city takes a lot of hard work, from the mayor to the citizens.
Rosemarie wants newcomers to Redmond to value all the initiative, effort, and elbow grease that made it happen. She says, “Whatever you love about Redmond, a lot of the intangibles — the parks, the River, didn’t happen overnight or without hard work.” If they love Riverwalk and Anderson Park and the other amenities, she wants them to have knowledge of and appreciation for the hard work and vision of people who came together before their arrival and made it happen. “You don’t wake up one day and have a great community. People gave of their time and talent– a quality community quickly requires hard work.”
As a newcomer, I’m thankful for the hard work Rosemarie did on the Planning Commission (1983-1987), City Council (1987-1991), and as mayor (1992-2007). It was not done in vain. It will not be forgotten.