This afternoon the City of Renton and the King County Library system announced its plans to build two new libraries in Renton.
Today's announcement comes just one year after the City's successful annexation campaign, which was run on a platform of offering "more accessible facilities to Renton's Library patrons."
The downtown Renton Library will relocate to 508 S. Thirds Street. A Big 5 Sporting Goods Store is currently at this location, across the street from the Piazza and near the transit center.
Today, the City announced that it has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the property's owner, Big 5 Corporation. Tentative plans call for demolition of the old building and construction of a new 15,000-square-foot public space.
“When the Big 5 property became available, we knew it presented a tremendous opportunity to further our efforts to revitalize downtown Renton,” said Mayor Denis Law in a press release distributed late this afternoon. The sporting goods store relocated to a newer and larger space in Renton Village off Grady Way.
“Since the mid-1990s, the City has been making investments in our downtown," he said. "The Piazza, the Transit Center, City Center Parking Garage, and the Renton Pavilion Events Center are all results of that investment. These projects, as well as the Renton School District’s remodel of Renton High School and the addition of IKEA Performing Arts Center, have attracted millions of dollars in new private investments and transformed the neighborhood. Building a new library on the Big 5 property will be yet another catalyst, bringing hundreds of additional Library patrons to the downtown core every day, benefitting the restaurants and shops nearby.”
The final purchase must be approved by the Renton City Council before its considered final.
The old library, known for its unique location over the Cedar River, will be retrofitted and utilized for another purpose, according to the City officials.
“We’ll study a number of options for re-use of the existing downtown Library,” said Law. “The structure is iconic. We want to find a new use that will take advantage of its unique connection to the Cedar River and add to the vibrancy of downtown Renton.”
A new home for the Highlands Library is expected to be about 15,000-square-feet, or about three times the size of the current building. The new location may take up residence on a section of the current Sunset Terrace Property, which would offer high visibility from the busy Sunset Boulevard.
Cost estimates will be unavailable until the branches are designed, but a ballpark figure including planning, design, construction, and property purchases puts the project around a cost of $9 to $10 million per building.
City funds that would have been spent to operate the Renton Library System have been set aside to assist in the funding of the new downtown library, which is expected to open by late 2012 or early 2013. The Sunset branch is expected to take and additional year to finish..
Renton Patch will post an update to this announcement as more information becomes available.