Speed of Travel
rushing, speeding, polluting
always moving, looking ahead
the beautiful, the fragile, the distinctive
collection of small growing things
slow down, stop, look around
the beautiful, the fragile, the elements of place
can grow again once we begin
to acknowledge them
I regularly ask Renton residents that I meet, “Have you been to downtown Renton?” The most common response is “Downtown? There’s a downtown Renton?” (a variation of this is, “Downtown? You mean the Landing?”)
My answer to you, my confused fellow Rentonians (Rentonites? Rentonistas?) is as follows:
To those of you who have not experienced downtown Renton, and wonder whether or not there is such a thing, you are missing out. South Third and surrounding vicinity, is smack in the middle of the historic district of Renton. If you want to taste Renton’s unique flavor of community, this is the place. Legends abound about prohibition-era subterranean tunnel networks beneath the city, underground jail cells, ghosts, and scandal.
Chat up the friendly, genuine merchants that characterize this area and you will find many that have lived here since childhood. If you ask them to tell you stories of cruising the “Renton Loop,” they’ll probably tell you Renton could have been the inspiration for “American Graffiti”: glamorous tales of girls, cars, speed, and run-ins with the law. They will blush and tell you that it was a time long ago, and they have long since settled down, but you can still see a mischievous adolescent twinkling in their eye.
I’m just going to come out and say it: I love The Landing. I do! It’s convenient, clean, and attractive. It feels safe. There are several beautiful indie stores in The Landing, and a few anchor chain stores. I can get things at the The Landing that I can’t buy at independent shops, without leaving Renton. That being said, The Landing will never be downtown. It doesn’t look like Renton because it isn’t Renton. It’s history is short and foreign. It attracts ubiquitous chains that no roots. Thousands of other cities have outdoor malls just like it.
Downtown Renton is ripe to be discovered. It is full of hidden treasures: passionate young people, sharp-witted old people, food and wine, fresh and aged things, all overlooked. If we want Renton to be a place where people come…stay…stop… we must have a vibrant downtown scene. If we want a vibrant downtown scene, we need to choose to spend there: spend time, money, and effort. We must care about downtown.
Without care, our city center will quickly become a placeless space: a void through which people commute. Shop local. Dine local. Play local. Enjoy life local. If not you, then who?
For a list of independent downtown businesses, visit our “locals only” directory!