More than twice the number of people attended a Wednesday night open house to determine the future of the current downtown library building.
Hosted at the Renton Community Center, the open house focused on three proposed uses including an art center, environmental center, or community center.
The 21-member steering committee began meeting in September, 2011. During the last few months, they’ve boiled down all the ideas and information they’ve collected, broke into three subgroups and visited venues similar to the proposed options. The subgroups reconvened, shared their finding and created the posters displayed at the open house (click on the thumbnail images to the right to see larger images of the posters).
Liz Stewart, Renton History Museum Director, and a city staff member on the committee, said she saw new and returning faces at the open house, including a number of arts commission members and a member of Friends of the Cedar River.
“People were there ready and waiting for the doors to open,” she said.
Arts Commission Member Peter Hartley, who lives near the library and has two children ages 2 and 7, said he favors a center for the arts, but isn’t opposed to the environmental center.
An arts center, he said, would generate return visitors; however, he doesn’t believe an environmental center would encourage as many return visits.
“It’s not my preferred use,” he said after writing down a few comments on a feedback poster.
As for the “third place/community center option,” Hartley described it as “a little vague” and thinks it would compete with local cafes and other established community gathering spots.
Steering Committee Chair Gary Barber said the process is moving along on schedule.
“We’re going to be collecting information from this event and distilling it down into a report for the council,” he said.
Whatever happens to the building, Barber hopes it will be both environmentally and economically sustainable.
“I’d like it to be LEED certified and have solar panels on the roof,” he said, “but I’d also like it have as little impact to (City) funds as possible and to generate some income.”
Pat Bentley, a current steering committee member and former ‘Save the Library’ member, is glad to be part of the team working to decide the future of the iconic building.
“I was against the library going and still am, but it you can’t beat them, join them,” she said of her decision to apply for a position on the steering committee.
“If it can’t stay, it might as well be the best it can be for the community, and for our kids,” she said, adding that she took her grandkids to the library and adjoining Liberty Park when they were younger.
Terry Higashiyama applauded Bentley’s interest to take part in the committee and work with the other members in the group to lay the way for a vibrant future.
“And that’s what a community activist does; they do what is best for the community,” Higashiyama said.
A proposal for the building will likely go before City Council members in March.
Were you unable to attend the open house on Feb. 15? Visit the Ciyt of Renton website (http://rentonwa.gov/) to complete a short, five-question survey about future uses of the Liberty Park Library building.