Library committee considers plan, vision

The City of Renton has a vision for the downtown core and a steering committee to redevelop the library over the Cedar River should not be limited to the building’s current structural limitations to meet a new concept for that space.

That’s what the Renton Liberty Park Library Steering Committee members learned from presentations recently from various city departments on redevelopment plans for Renton and a site assessment of the current downtown library over the Cedar River.

The history of the city’s development was detailed starting with the 1993 City Campus Plan explained by Jay Covington, the city’s chief administrative officer.

He covered how the city once planned to create a municipal campus around the current downtown library. That vision changed when voters did not approve  a levy to build a public safety building in the area and city hall moved from the 200 Mill building to its current location at 1055 Grady Way.

Covington expressed that there is no current priority to create a symbiotic relationship between the 200 Mill building and the library building, but to have some concept that allows the public to have access in and around the space.

Leslie Betlach, parks director, gave an overview of the city’s park system and how it would change with proposed widening and construction plans for Interstate 405.

In the summer of 2005, different state agencies and consultants got together for a design charrette to create a master plan for the areas encompassed in Liberty Park, the library, Cedar River Park and the Stoneway and Narco Properties that would be impacted by the widening of the highway.

Adopted in 2006, the Tri-Park Master Plan calls for big changes to the area. It creates new access to Liberty Park off of Garden Street. The skate and basketball areas would be moved to a more prominent location. The central area of Liberty Park becomes a passive meadow with the baseball fields removed and modernized at the Stoneway Property. Soccer fields would be added to where the Narco facilities are currently located. There is also a long-term goal to expand the Henry Moses Aquatics Center.

The Washington State Department of Transportation predicts the changes to I-405 wouldn’t happen until 2025. Ideas that came out of the public process that created the master plan were expanding the community center, developing a teen center and creating a space for multiple uses, although the steering committee is not bound to adopt those ideas for the library building.

Chip Vincent, the city’s planning director, added to the vision of Renton’s future with his presentation of the City Center Neighborhood Plan.

In 2009 that department started the public process. In 2010 goals were drafted, revisions made and a strategy developed.

On June 6, the City Council adopted the City Center Neighborhood Plan.

The plan called for many features the steering committee found appealing, including creating a connection between The Landing and the downtown core via Park Avenue with perhaps a trolley system like Portland’s.

Committee member Francine Siverts thought the city’s plans for redevelopment were excellent and well thought out for creating connectivity.

“And as far as the library, by them presenting some visual changes that means we will have options to make the building a little prettier than what it is,” she said. “And also maybe make it so that it’s more futuristic and usable for many different types of projects.”

The committee was given the current downtown library’s structural limitations as presented by Greg Stroh, the city’s facility manager.

The building was constructed in 1966 and is 22,400 square-feet. The heating ventilation and air conditioning system, the electrical system and the floor bearing capacity would all require upgrades if the use is to be changed in order to bring it up to current building code.

This was welcome news to committee member Norm Abrahamson, who was under the impression that the library had to be upgraded no matter what for a ton of money.

“Now (Terry Higashiyama’s) ground-ruled in the fact that well, we’re not going to consider increasing the floor capacity as limitation on our thinking,” Abrahamson said. “And that’s good because to think of uses that wouldn’t change the floor loading that really limits you greatly.”

Gary Barber and Marvin Rosete were elected chair and vice chair of the steering committee respectively. Both thought questions about the floor loading capacity were irrelevant at this stage of the process.

“In my profession I know the ways that you can get the structural capacity that you need, but like Marvin says, it depends,” said Barber. “It’s like how much is a bag of groceries, it depends on what’s in the bag,” he said, describing how the use would dictate the building’s load capacity.

Barber is an architect and Rosete has worked in non-profits and public administration, including work in building management and historic preservation  for a number of years.

Barber was encouraged by the emphasis on development he saw in the city’s plans for the downtown core.

“I mean, it’s really exciting and the fact that this is such a node in the connection of different parts of the city, I think it gives us some real opportunities to really highlight the building in a way that maybe a library use wouldn’t have highlighted,” he said.


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