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The new Skyway library opened last month. Architecturally speaking, it’s a pretty typical, but well done iteration of the modern branch library genre. It’s a nice building; it feels big, there’s plenty of natural light and color. It also occupies a very prominent location in Skyway (you can’t miss it). But having this wonderful new public building points out what a dump the rest of Skyway has become over the decades. It will be quite a challenge to find any other new construction or even another building that has been substantially rehabbed in Skyway since the Reagan era (maybe even the Eisenhower era). Yes, there is a Grocery Outlet that opened within the last 5 years and the casino is always busy; but most Skyway storefronts seem to be empty and surrounded by cracking asphalt parking lots or occupied by weed shops and other struggling small businesses. How could a neighborhood that is a 10 minutes bus ride from downtown Renton and 10 minutes from light rail have become such a depressing and dilapidated mess?

I suspect that Skyway’s problems stem from the fact that it isn’t a city. It’s an unincorporated region bordered by Seattle, Renton and Tukwila and its public services are provided by King County. So when the citizens of Skyway want a problem fixed, they have to go to the county council and fight the other unincorporated areas for attention and public money. Thankfully, the county library system has the money to rebuild some of its libraries and the old Skyway library was replaced with this nice new facility.

So, if you want to take a trip to Skyway and check out this new library, it is served by route 106 that you can catch in the DSTT or you can make a connection from Link at Rainier Beach Station. If you’ve never before made the Link to Metro transfer at Rainier Beach Station, let us know in the comments how that worked out for you. You can also get to Skyway via the Renton Transit Center (again, route 106). Skyway is a neighborhood that has the potential to be a great place to live, shop or go to the library, but unfortunately its problems currently far outnumber its charms.

8 Replies to “A Reason to Ride: Skyway Library”

  1. I wonder if Skyway would be any better off incorporated, though. Unless I’m missing something, it’d have a very low tax base. It could still contract with King County for services, but there wouldn’t be much more money to fix things up.

    1. It couldn’t really be worse. The county is basically shrinking funding to urban areas over time. They get part-time sheriff services split with White Center. Because the county is so spread out, my guess is they don’t get much of a voice about what they need. Skyway (aka West Hill) needs a lot. Currently there are no real grocery stores (ok, except the Gross-out), no medical services, etc. Renton was willing to take the hit tax-wise, but Skyway voted “No” on incorporation a few years ago anyway; I have no idea why.

    2. The county was designed only to provide rural services. Over time these areas grew into quasi-suburbs and became an expensive burden for the county. Areas such as Shoreline liked it because they could get urban-level services with only a two-level tax structure (state and county). The county looked at its long-term plan and realized it hadn’t intended to get into urban-level services; it just happened with sprawl. So the county started pressuring unincorporated urbanized areas to incorporate or join cities. That’s how Shoreline was formed, Kirkland annexed Juanita, Tukwila annexed nameless areas, Sammamish was formed, etc. The county has been gradually getting more aggressive: it threatened to cut south Highline’s parks funding way down (thus closing parks) if it didn’t so something, so south Highline joined Burien. [1] North Highline (White Center) is next up, it can choose between Burien and Seattle. It was getting closer to moving when the recession occurred and postponed things. I was wondering about Skyway the last time I went through it (“Is this Renton now? Does Renton border Seattle?”) but I guess not.

    3. [1] I’m not sure where “Highline” ends, since Highline Community College is significantly further south. Does Highline mean all of southwest King County?

      1. “High Line Road” was the original name of Des Moines Memorial Drive, which runs from South Park to Des Moines. I think its come to refer to that whole plateau that runs north-south west of the Green River and eat of the Puget Sound, at least for areas south of the Seattle boundary.

  2. “High Line Road” was the original name of Des Moines Memorial Drive, which runs from South Park to Des Moines. I think its come to refer to that whole plateau that runs north-south west of the Green River and eat of the Puget Sound, at least for areas south of the Seattle boundary.

  3. I used to live near Skyway and would occasionally go for runs in the area. Yes, what a dump! All I can say is roosters perched on rusted pickup trucks across the street from mold-infested apartment buildings. Paints a nice picture, eh? Those people were completely nuts to vote no on annexing to Renton. Yes, Renton has its problems, but they are a scale smaller than the problems in Skyway. Not only would they have improved police presence with an annexation to either Renton or Seattle, but they would have a larger voice than in King County (yes, even in Seattle) and their utilities which are currently small (probably very inefficient) public utility districts would save money by merging with the adjacent City utility departments and gain expertise with an actual full-time staff. I suppose their additional option would be to incorporate, but they simply do not have enough of a tax base to make this plausible.

    By the way, the other jewel up in Skyway is the Renton School District’s administrative building. It’s on some side street a few blocks off of Renton Avenue. Also, the far south edge of Skyway does have some new development. Creston Point Apartments on Martin Luther King (Sunset in Renton) was built about five years ago and provides exclusively subsidized housing. Cambridge Park Villa across the street was completed a couple of years later. But you are right, nothing new in the heart of Skyway that wasn’t paid for with public funds. This area really needs a kick-start.

    1. I know that Dimmit MS, Campbell Hill ES and Bryn Mawr ES are part of the Renton School District, even though they are outside of the Renton city limits.

      Creston Point has been open for more than 5 years and it is a huge development. I don’t know how many people live there but it’s an enormous number. Creston Point doesn’t look like much from the street, but it’s full of families and kids, The walk from Creston Point to the 101 bus stop is also very dangerous due to the 50mph speed limit and the lack of sidewalks/crosswalks.

      I drove through unincorporated Boulevard Park yesterday and it was worse than Skyway. The number of discarded mattresses and couches alongside the roadway exceeded the number of open businesses.

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