September 26, 2002

Renton rebounds with infill projects

  • The city’s downtown has seen a renaissance over the past five years
    TSA Architects

    Metropolitan Place
    Photos courtesy of TSA Architects
    Metropolitan Place in Renton was the county’s first transit-oriented development. It melds a Metro park-and-ride with commercial space and 90 apartment units.

    In 1996, downtown Renton witnessed the beginning of a renaissance.

    For many years Renton had seen a gradual decline in the vitality of its downtown core. In a successful effort to infuse new life into its downtown area, Renton embarked on an aggressive redevelopment plan.

    As part of the plan, the city would relocate several car dealerships out of the downtown core to more appropriate sites adjacent Interstate 405. This would free up land and provide new development opportunities in the downtown core.

    Dally Homes and TSA Architects (previously Thomas Harkey Architects) were involved in the first project of this redevelopment effort. The project, a 110-unit mixed-use building was named Renton Renaissance and proved to be aptly named as this project really did mark the beginning of the renaissance of downtown Renton.

    Seattle has seen the development of many urban infill type projects similar to the Renton Renaissance but this was a new building type for downtown Renton. Commercial space at the first level provides pedestrian activity along the street. Parking is inconspicuously contained within the building structure behind the commercial space. Time would show that street level commercial space with living units above could be successful in Renton.

    Bus stop
    Buses stop right at the front door to Metropolitan Place.

    The success of the Renton Renaissance project would give rise to other projects over the next couple of years developed by Dally Homes and designed by TSA Architects.

    Burnett Station was another urban mixed-use project with street level commercial space and apartment units above with parking contained within the building structure. The site, just immediately north of the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train depot, inspired the project design and name. The building appropriately makes use of a railroad motif with the use of bright colors, signage and artwork in the main building lobby.

    The newest project put together by the Dally-TSA team is Metropolitan Place. King County Metro was also a partner in this project, making Metropolitan Place the first transit-oriented development to be completed in King County. This project incorporates a Metro park-and-ride with commercial space and 90 apartment units. The site, adjacent to the new Renton Transit Center, exemplifies how private and public agencies can work together to create design that is consistent with the state Growth Management Act.

    These projects have been followed by other development in the downtown core — both public and private.

    Burnett Station
    Another of Renton’s newer urban mixed-use projects is Burnett Station. Its design and name reflects its proximity to the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train depot.

    Last year, the city finished work on the Piazza, a pleasant urban park adjacent to the downtown transit center. As more and more pedestrians return to the street, this park will provide welcome open space in Renton’s downtown core.

    A new parking structure is also currently being developed by the city adjacent to the transit center and the city has future plans for a public market adjacent to the park and transit center.

    Future private development is also in the works. Studies have been put together for multi-family projects at the old Lande feed mill site and for two sites on Williams Avenue. One to the east of McClendon Hardware and the other at the southeast corner of Second and Williams.

    Gone are the days when it was easy to bypass downtown Renton on the way to suburban neighborhoods that extend on down the valley to Kent and Auburn. Downtown Renton is becoming a vital urban center that now has a strong foundation for continued growth.

    Kent Smutny is a partner at TSA Architects PLLC in Bellevue. He is a licensed architect and holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Washington State University.

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