Renton City Council is determining whether now is the time to look at revamping the downtown Renton Pavilion Event Center and possibly creating a public market that would double as event space.
Council discussed what’s next for the pavilion at committee of the whole meetings April 15 and April 22, and determined the city would move forward with a Request for Proposals to leasing the facility. The current lease at the Pavilion, located at 233 Burnett Ave. S., is set to expire December 2019.
At the April 15 committee meeting, council was offered one such proposal that could be explored with an RFP: a public market concept that would have movable vendor kiosks to double as event space, along with industrial design, a few long-term retailers and art and cooking classrooms.
The concept is still being finalized, said downtown Cortona building owner Dave Brethauer, member of the team who proposed it.
City Downtown Manager David Buchheit said the city has been drafting language for the RFP for some time, but discussion from council brought the goal of releasing it to the forefront. Buchheit said the RFP is based off guidelines listed in the Downtown Civic Core Vision and Action Plan.
The action plan, adopted in January 2018, calls for restructuring the Pavilion, Piazza Park and the transit center to create a hub of community activity in downtown Renton.
The transit hub — if the station is moved out of that area as has been proposed by Washington State Department of Transportation — would become the “backyard” of the pavilion, with a pop-up plaza space. The pavilion would be the heart of the block and would “create a central meeting space in the downtown,” according to the civic core plan.
The RFP is looking for developers to create a “thriving space that includes a public market/food hall, active cultural space and exhibition/event space” in the pavilion. The events would be located inside the pavilion and be opened six to seven days a week.
The proposal would leave the renovations, operations and management to the leaseholder. At committee, Mayor Denis Law said that throughout the different proposals the city has received for the 14,770-square-foot structure, there has always been talk of a year-round, vibrant market.
Law told the council that the city is not currently proposing money toward the project, nor would the city operate it.
“We’re not getting into the business to run a market,” Law said.
Council President Don Persson was concerned about the finances of the pavilion. The history of the building is expensive and difficult to retrofit, Persson said. He is worried potential developers aren’t aware of the costs.
Councilmember Randy Corman also spoke about the history of the building, and how the city initially did a $2 million rehabilitation of the building. He also mentioned council had tough debates over the pavilion in the past.
The city was also only one vote away from demolishing the whole complex, Persson said. He also said at the April 22 meeting that the original remodel of the building “did everything wrong.”
“It’s an impractical building as it stands today without a whole bunch of infrastructure,” he said.
Council decided the RFP would ask for leasing so that the market and piazza can still be in city control, and to make sure if something went wrong with a future project they could control it. They asked for a long-term lease and that the leaseholder would be responsible for upgrades.
There would also be a calendar of events and classes to keep visitors coming back, something Corman noted the pavilion has had trouble with in recent years.
City staff will return to council when proposals are submitted to continue conversations around the pavilion, Buchheit said at the April 15 committee meeting.