Victory not perfect for Renton library supporters

Victory not perfect for Renton library supporters

RENTON -Redevelopment ideas for Renton's iconic library on the Cedar River are not sitting well with some residents, who claim the two main features they worked so hard to keep last summer continue being ignored by King County Library officials.

"Nobody had any idea this was coming down the pipe," said Richard Bray, a Renton resident and member of the Save the Cedar River Library citizens group. "The single option proposal is so radically different from what residents expected."

Last August, more than 6,900 residents - 76 percent of Renton voters - voted to keep the downtown library at its current site over the river. Bray said that prior to, during and after last August's election supporters made it very clear to city and county officials they wanted to keep the entrance to the library over the water and they didn't want to see the library lose space - both of which, the group said, are included in KCLS's latest design proposal.

"We are asking the city council again to stand up and do what Renton residents have asked for," said Bray.

Next month, KCLS will hold a public meeting to showcase its conceptual ideas for the library, but Greg Smith, facilities director for KCLS, said until then residents shouldn't jump to any conclusions.

"We have not issued any plans other than some engineering difficulties with the project," Smith said. "We have shown some conceptual ideas but we have not issued any plans."

Smith said KCLS is working with the site they've been given, but rebuilding a structure that's basically a bridge over a river has some very serious environmental issues that need to be taken into account.

"We could not build that building today. We have to bring the building up to code seismically," he said. "We have to put some pilings on the ground to help support it and we have to stay out of the flood plain."

When asked if the current conceptual plans include losing square footage and the entrance over the river, Smith admits both are possible.

"With the way KCLS designs libraries, to have a door in the middle of the building defeats the purpose of the flow of traffic inside the space," he said. "The entrance may be off the parking lot side, but we are looking at all of that right now."

While the current library totals 20,000 square feet, Smith said a large chunk of the library is dedicated to staff operations. He said while the new layout may offer less square footage, the loss of public space would be minimal and would mostly come from space for the staff.

KCLS plans to mail flyers to residents regarding the public meeting within the next few days. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 26 at 6:30p.m., inside the Cedar River Library.

Bray said until then, supporters for Save the Cedar River Library encourage residents to get involved by attending weekly city council meetings and expressing to councilmembers their desires for the future of the downtown library.