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Downtown Business Owners Voice Opinions On Library Move

Business owners eager to receive the new downtown Renton library, show support through signs.

After more than two years of discussion over the fate of the downtown Renton Library, some business owners are vocalizing their support for the building’s relocation to South Third Street.

Talk of revamping the downtown and highlands libraries began two years ago during the vote to annex Renton’s libraries into the King County Library System (KCLS).

Here’s a brief background:

The special elections voter’s pamphlet stated “Renton would provide two replacement library facilities to be paid for at a future date by City of Renton funds.” But the pamphlet did not specify if the ‘replacement facilities’ would occur through a remodel or a move. This one line — among other points — has fueled the fire between opponents and proponents of the library move.

Slightly more than 31 percent of registered voters, or 12,760 turned out for the Feb. 9, 2009 special election.   In response to the question “Should the City of Renton be annexed to and be a part of the King County Library District,” 50.21 percent, or 6,395 voters, said ‘yes;’ 49.79 percent, or 6,342 voters said ‘no.’

with the Big 5 Corporation for property located at 508 South Third Street. In June the . At that same meeting, the Council voted to maintain ownership of the existing library building located over the Cedar River and transform it into whatever the community expressed the most interest in.

The ; through public meetings, and , the group has narrowed down the future uses for the building. The Steering Committee will present its recommendation to the City Council's Committee of the whole meeting meeintg on April 16 at 6 p.m.

Public comment has ebbed and flowed over the last year, especially around the , and during public comment before the Renton City Council.

An opposition group — — formed shortly after the City’s decision to move the library to the Third Street location. The group , which it has submitted to King County Elections for an audit. ; the group is currently waiting to hear about the second set of signatures.

Business Owners Take A Stand:

Renton’s downtown business owners have begun vocalizing their feelings about the library move.

Until now, few business owners and nonprofits have publicly voiced their opinions about the downtown library relocation. For each business owner who agreed to go on the record with Patch, there was another who did not want to be quoted for fear of losing business.

Rich Sweeney, owner of the , has taken his opinion one step further by designing and printing, “Support The New Library” signs.

Sweeney, the Downtown Committee Chair, first thought of printing signs following a committee meeting held earlier this month at the WACAP Offices at 315 South Second Street.

He sat on the idea for two weeks until he had time enough to design and print a test poster. Sweeney posted a picture of the sign on Facebook and before long he’d received enough poster requests that he decided to do a press run. The posters are available at the Renton Printery for $2 each, and any profits will go toward KCLS.

Some of the posters along Third Street have already gone missing, he said. To ensure that more signs don’t disappear, Sweeney fastened a few of the signs to A-frame stands with grommets and metal wire.

“This is really split across parties and friends,” he said of the library move.

Just down the street, the marquee board reads “We Support New Library.” In October Renton Civic Theatre Director Bill Huls told Patch that he is excited about the new , and is expected to be open sometime in 2013.

Longtime restaurateur Gene Sens also supports the library’s move to the former Big 5 Sporting Goods store site across from the Piazza. Initially, he was hesitant to share his thoughts, but now says that it is time to move forward.

He understands that some of the push-back may be rooted in nostalgia, but contends that change is good, especially in this case.

“This is the most significant thing to happen in the downtown for quite awhile,” he said, citing the variety of programs and services offered through the library including wireless internet, social programs and workshops.

As for safety, Sens said an increase in foot traffic downtown will lead to a safer neighborhood because people will be “self policing.”  

The move will create a type of ‘nexus,’ with the , library, , Piazza park, transit center, restaurants and cafes.

“It’ll be a boon to all business,” he said, calling the library an “anchor tenant,” that will draw more business and stimulate the downtown.

Sens predicts that in 10 years, after the library has moved, everyone will forget about the current turmoil and say they were for the relocation effort.

“We have to move on,” he said. “I hope (the City) does not reverse course; it would send the wrong message.”

Further up South Third Street, toward the current library location, owner Rod Stewart has spoken before City Council in favor of the library move and believes the change will bring more people into city’s core.

“As a business owner, I think it will be beneficial to have traffic through downtown,” he said, adding that he feels people will be more likely to shop downtown businesses if they are already there to visit the library. Stewart will celebrate his business’ 16th anniversary this June.

Mary Clymer, owner of , said she hasn’t gone a day without a customer walking in and asking about the library.

“Every day people come in here and want to talk about it,” she said.

Two years ago, Clymer voted to keep the library under the ownership of the City of Renton. And she still thinks it should have stayed under local ownership.

Clymer also feels there was misinformation and a lack of necessary information made available during the Feb. 9, 2009 special election to annex Renton’s libraries into KCLS.

However, the majority rules, she said, and now she supports the library’s move to the Big 5 location.

“I’ve been involved in enough elections that you just say, “Dang it,” and move on,” she said.

But Clymer does feel that the City’s decision to move the downtown library would have been better received had the City and KCLS been more transparent during the special election.

Looking to the current situation, and into the future, Clymer is tired of hearing how unsafe downtown is.

“Those comments directly affect my business, and that is why the businesses need to speak out,” she said.

Both sides are guilty of misinformation, she said, and now is the time to forge ahead and leave the nostalgia, untruths and hurt feelings in the past.

What are your thoughts about the library? Send letters to the editor to jenny.manning@patch.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

 

*Editor's Note: The original article misstated the time of the Library Steering Committee's presentation to Council on April 16. The correct time is 6 p.m. Patch regrets the error.

@rcwant2be March 28, 2012 at 04:53 AM
31% voter turnout. There's the issue. Rentonians had a chance to vote on this issue & 69% of them couldn't bother filling out a ballot & dropping it in the mail or dropping it off. This is why I'm tired of hearing the library savers complain about the election. There was one & barely anyone paid attention. Before the election is when that group should have been doing their grunt work. Not now, bitterly dividing a community. I love renton. I love kcls. I'm excited about the positive foot traffic the new library will bring to the downtown core & excited to see the possibilities for the current building.
Michael Riley March 28, 2012 at 04:55 PM
This is not about "nostalgia". This is about the quantity and quality of library services. It is about community control of scarce tax dollars. There are a lot of potential projects that the city could use that site for that would provide a much better draw for downtown businesses. Michael Riley
@rcwant2be March 28, 2012 at 07:32 PM
a better draw for downtown business? Library usage is at an all time high. A library is a great draw.
Dena Rosko March 28, 2012 at 07:38 PM
What's needed is to not to "move on," nor to judge people's "nostalgia" or feelings, but to respect democratic process, and then move forward. If we're to speak of the library in terms of making money, remember first that salary comprises most of the city's budget. I want downtown businesses to succeed, and I participate in downtown events and patron businesses there. I celebrate the city by covering events and promoting it in my blog http://bit.ly/n1B85Q Yet public commons, or civic spaces funded by tax dollars, must not be shuffled into economic development or be used for the interest of private business. Moreover, businesses share interest in upholding democratic process. For instance, if tables were turned and the city contracted for relocating a downtown business without your knowledge or approval, and you had to relocate, but you were responsible to pay the debt of such a move without having a say or foreknowledge in the terms or obligations of said contract, including location, and you didn't know who the contract owners were, then how would you feel? I support 3/50 and "going local." How do businesses reconcile their marketing for local indie business, but support a centralized decision-making process made in part elsewhere? All of this posturing and "taking stands" means moot if we distrust the democratic process that provides the platform on which we make public decisions. Learn more at http://bit.ly/z3vUdf Thanks for reading, Dena Rosko, MA-ComL
@rcwant2be March 28, 2012 at 07:50 PM
The library savers really need to let go of the fact they were supposedly not informed of changes as a result of joining kcls. Did the group expect the mayor & head of kcls to show up on every Renton doorstep & give each voter a 100% run down of EXACTLY what joining kcls would entail? The continual return to "the people didn't get to decide" mindset is old, tiresome, & borderline whining at this point. There was an election. Only 31% of the populace cared enough to return a ballot...which doesn't even require leaving your home. That is pretty down apathetic of the other 69% of registered voters. If only 31% managed to check Yes or No, what % of that group read & fully understood the ballot language? & what % of that group sought out every publicly available bit of info on the proposed merger? We're getting down to a really small % of the populace at that point. If people had cared more BEFORE the election, we would not be in this situation. At this point, the call for a "do-over" is sad. I wish our energies could be spent on something positive.
@rcwant2be March 28, 2012 at 08:00 PM
an interesting round up of the numbers: 6,395 voters, said ‘yes;’ 6,342 voters said ‘no.’ 6,375 needed for petition (15% of registered voters @ time of initial election) 7,263 signatures submitted mid-February 4,933 were valid (12% of registered voters) 2,108 additional signatures were gathered on super Saturday so, even if every person who voted no signed the petition, it would still fall short.
Adam Christian Smith March 28, 2012 at 10:05 PM
rcwant2be, whoever you are, just finished this discussion. Thank you, Adam Christian Smith Renton, WA
rentonben March 28, 2012 at 10:39 PM
If I could submit where I feel that your calculations are wrong: There are plenty of KCLS supports who still support the annexation, but want to maintain the Renton Library where it is.
@rcwant2be March 28, 2012 at 10:48 PM
@RentonBen You're exhausting. Truly exhausting. Do you ever get tired from your own CONSTANT questioning of EVERY detail? I liken the current library to a favorite pair of jeans. You love the jeans. Wear them whenever you need to feel confident & look your best. Years go by & gradually your waistline grows...and one day, the jeans just aren't as comfy anymore & you don't feel your best in them. you put them in the closet & vow to someday to wear them again. time keeps passing & someday far down the road, you're faced with the decision, keep holding on to a dream, or face reality, what worked for you once, doesn't work now & probably won't work in the future. The current Renton Library Building may be full of all sorts of warm fuzzies...but a point comes where it can't be 100% anymore and has to give way to progress. God forbid if something were to happen where the library building was lost in any capacity forever. Example, back in my hometown in MI there was a wonderful CCC constructed park pavilion. Last month it burned to the ground overnight. The library building will stay, & assume another equally as noble purpose for the community. The new library will provide us with a modern & state of the art facility, while adding to our downtown. @AdamCSmith, Thank you & thanks for playing along.
Judith Tabak March 28, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I'd like to address the people who feel a NEW, SMALLER, library on 3rd Ave, built at Renton taxpayer expense, will help revitalize downtown. Let's cruise down 3rd and take note of the empty businesses. Salvation Army-EMPTY; old floral shop next door-EMPTY; the 3 in one group business across from Liberty Cafe and Happy Delusions-EMPTY; American Drapery-FOR SALE sign in window (would be a gaping hole dowtown if it closes). If a NEW library could magically revitalize the downtown area of Renton, and fill those empty storefronts, it'd make sense to build it--but I don't thing it would. Do any of you who are supporting a new library think so? Let's hear your argument. Here's an altetnate plan: open the Events Center year-round: in the rainy season, have a farmers'/flea market inside--people need an interesting place to go when the weather is inclement--and in the summer continue with it outdoors--it IS a proven success. Build an arts center at the former Big 5 site-it would be in better sync with the Event Center plan. There has to be a better plan to have people use the downtown, and one small library is not going to do it. Leave our Cedar River Renton Library alone--it's the most unique icon a city could ever hope for.
Dena Rosko March 29, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Thank you for your insightful and respectful comment @rentonben.
Dena Rosko March 29, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Tonya you could be more respectful towards contributors. It's great your hometown in Michigan proffered a nice space, but this is Renton, and Renton residents ought to have a say in how they shape their community and public space without comparing it elsewhere.
Adam Christian Smith March 29, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Only comment: Watch how quickly EMPTY becomes un-EMPTY. Your plan is grand, Judith, and I’m sure is fine. But we’re past that part of things. The building is a gem, what is in it matters but it isn’t that it is a library. Adam Christian Smith Renton, WA
@rcwant2be March 29, 2012 at 03:05 AM
@Judith just because something is smaller doesn't mean it is not better suited. Basic example, my brother's small 2 bedroom house is well-designed with a floor plan that flows really well. Tho its smaller square footage than mine, it's not so noticeable. Instead of focusing on the empty store fronts downtown, why not focus on the filled & new ones. DTR is expanding westward (Brag Salon, Smoking Monkey Pizza, Toshi's). A library in the old big 5 is a strong anchor tennant to keep foot traffic flowing westward on S. Third. East of the transit center is getting pretty established so there's already a good customer base headed in that direction. btw, there is a tennant for the 3-in-spot, at least in part, that opens imminently, http://www.arts-n-carafes.com. As for opening the events center year round to host a flea market...once & awhile that's cool, but as a standing engagement, that seems tacky. the library building isn't being torn down. the building will stay. it'll have it's same great views. you'll just be visiting it for a different purpose. one end of the down town core will have a unique, river spanning public building, & the other will have a state of the art library. how is that not win win?
@rcwant2be March 29, 2012 at 03:13 AM
@Dena, could you be more respectful towards me, someone who hasn't lived in WA or Renton her whole life, but loves & advocates for the town just as much as she loves the tiny town she grew up in? I used the example of the loss of my hometown's CCC pavilion as a comparison of one historical, architectually significant, & much loved community building to another. In the case of Renton's library building, the building is not lost. The community will get a new library & retain their river spanning building for a yet to be decided (by the community) public purpose. Why can that not be viewed as a positive? Contrast that to my hometown, where the community lost a building that nearly everyone has a memory of, from school trips, to family reunions, 4th of July celebrations, weddings, receptions, retirements, & so forth.
Renate Beedon March 29, 2012 at 06:12 AM
I love KCLS, I love Renton and I love the downtown library. I even voted for the annexation to KCLS. BUT! had I known that the annexation meant moving the downtown library I would have never voted for it. The voters were left in the dark about the real reasons behind some of the decisions that have been made about the downtown library and I resent that. What foot traffic are you talking about? You don't really think people will park in that big and busy parking garage to walk over the the old Big 5 building? Especially during the day, when the garage will be filled with the cars of commuters. Parking there at night is a whole other issue. Too dangerous as far as I'm concerned. Parking at the current location is so easy and convenient, and you get to stroll over the bridge and take a moment to watch the fish in the water. Walking from a parking garage through that ugly transit center just doesn't compare. Last, but not least, it's the city and it's actions concerning the library that is bitterly dividing the community.
Renate Beedon March 29, 2012 at 06:15 AM
Right on, Rentonben!
Renate Beedon March 29, 2012 at 06:18 AM
No, I did not expect the Mayor and the head of KCLS to come to my door and explain in detail what joining KCLS detailed. What I do expect, though, is that the people I vote for are transparent and open in their intentions. And that was not done with that election.
Renate Beedon March 29, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Comment from rcwant2be: " In the case of Renton's library building, the building is not lost. The community will get a new library & retain their river spanning building for a yet to be decided (by the community) public purpose." Well, then why the heck can't the library be kept in there? Why spend all that money and build a new one? Move whatever the community decides into the new building. What's so hard about that?
Dena Rosko March 29, 2012 at 03:45 PM
@rcwant2be "Contrast that to my hometown, where the community lost a building that nearly everyone has a memory of, from school trips, to family reunions, 4th of July celebrations, weddings, receptions, retirements, & so forth..." Will you clarify: Your hometown lost a community space? Are you saying you're afraid that Renton will lose a community space? You can empathize that's how some supporters of the Library at Cedar River may feel about the Council and KCLS relocating the building. No disrespect intended, nor conveyed; it's good we're debating the library move, but I return to my initial point: whatever decisions on public space need to be put to vote by the public, and that vote cannot be obfuscated to be something else. Note that the annexation vote was not a vote to relocate the library. If only the council and KCLS director decide the location of the library, then our posturing here is moot. You don't mind it b/c you agree w/them, but what if the tables were turned? We share a love for Renton, but are we confident that our input matters to policy? Also, @Jenny, is it Patch policy for people to use real names and not handles?
Dena Rosko March 29, 2012 at 03:50 PM
@rcwant2be You misinterpret my point (again). I do not call a vote a "do-over." I'm not asking for a vote to de-annex (that's a do-over). Conceive the vote as a contract. Terms of contracts made or pitched by elected officials must be revealed to public. The voter's pamphlet is more than people debating pro/against statements effectively making a vote a wedge issue. Elected officials are paid by taxpayers--not just voters or private business. Public commons such as the library should not be shuffled into business development. The council can decide either to adopt or modify the petition; barring any of that, relocation should be put to vote, especially if the council rejects the petition.
@rcwant2be March 29, 2012 at 04:00 PM
@Renate I park in that "big & busy parking garage" every Monday - Friday. I'm one of the commuters you talk about & I take the bus from the "ugly transit center" too. Actually, I love the transit center & free parking at the garage. It's great. I've been using it for nearly 5 years & have never once felt unsafe, even at night. Busy isn't a bad thing, it's a good thing. People are parking in that garage & coming into our downtown. They want to be able to walk places after they hop off the bus before they hop in the car. The garage is 7 floors. Floors 5-7 are for commuters. The rest of the garage is up for grabs with 2 free hours of parking for people visiting downtown establishments. Last night, I got off my bus in the transit center, walked down Burnett to S. 3rd, got my bangs trimmed at Brag (which is awesome), then got 2 to-go orders at Toshi's, & walked back to my car at the garage. Did I see anyone scary or feel unsafe? Nope. During the summer, a lot of the commuters on my bus get off the bus & head to the farmers market. That transit center is absolutely a positive for downtown. Having a library next door is another great thing. Here's a pic of the "ugly transit center" from a couple weeks ago: http://www.twitpic.com/8wr5dc
@rcwant2be March 29, 2012 at 04:00 PM
@Renate I park in that "big & busy parking garage" every Monday - Friday. I'm one of the commuters you talk about & I take the bus from the "ugly transit center" too. Actually, I love the transit center & free parking at the garage. It's great. I've been using it for nearly 5 years & have never once felt unsafe, even at night. Busy isn't a bad thing, it's a good thing. People are parking in that garage & coming into our downtown. They want to be able to walk places after they hop off the bus before they hop in the car. The garage is 7 floors. Floors 5-7 are for commuters. The rest of the garage is up for grabs with 2 free hours of parking for people visiting downtown establishments. Last night, I got off my bus in the transit center, walked down Burnett to S. 3rd, got my bangs trimmed at Brag (which is awesome), then got 2 to-go orders at Toshi's, & walked back to my car at the garage. Did I see anyone scary or feel unsafe? Nope. During the summer, a lot of the commuters on my bus get off the bus & head to the farmers market. That transit center is absolutely a positive for downtown. Having a library next door is another great thing. Here's a pic of the "ugly transit center" from a couple weeks ago: http://www.twitpic.com/8wr5dc
Jenny Manning March 29, 2012 at 04:11 PM
@Dena - Patch encourages our readers to use their real names, but it is not policy. I know that some people sign in through other sites and have a handle. In that case I'd encourage them to sign their comments (similar to what Adam Smith does), but I cannot require it. Thanks for the question.
@rcwant2be March 29, 2012 at 06:22 PM
@Dena quoting my initial post "The current Renton Library Building may be full of all sorts of warm fuzzies...but a point comes where it can't be 100% anymore and has to give way to progress. God forbid if something were to happen where the library building was lost in any capacity forever. <b>Example, back in my hometown in MI there was a wonderful CCC constructed park pavilion. Last month it burned to the ground overnight. The library building will stay, & assume another equally as noble purpose for the community."<b> how was that disrespecting Rentonians? My point, that you missed, is I hear all this talk about how the residents didn't have a say & so forth...well, the residents of my hometown didn't have a say on the loss of their pavilion, but since it burned to the ground, it will never be the same. the renton library building will continue to span the river. it just won't house library books. it will continue to provide warm & fuzzy feelings to visitors. they will just be there for a different purpose.
Nikki Robinson April 26, 2012 at 07:59 PM
It's not about complaining, it is in fact about what in reality would offer a stimulus to the downtown business community. Just because this is the only option that has been presented does not mean it is the right one. People come into town in the hope of being entertained and also spend money - realistically when people have had a long week, they want to let off some steam, kick up their heels and have some refreshment. Just luck at main street in Walla Walla.
Nikki Robinson April 26, 2012 at 08:19 PM
That is the exact problem that permeats society - a society whos philosopy is to discard all that is old, buildingsand all without any regard for their historic interest or character, lets create a sterile environment with plastic and vinyl, and lets create mountians of garbage and disposed of electronics just because whats 'new' holds more value in this disposable society. If Europeans had the same attitude you do, there would be no reason to visit, because you might as well just go to your own back yard because everything would be the same all over the world - full of plastic c---p, as my brother in law says.

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