2000 to present

Population: 50,052 (2000) – 104,100 (2018)
Area: 23.54 square miles

2001 marked the city’s centennial, and in its honor the Renton Historical Society organized a sidewalk marker walking tour to commemorate the historic buildings lost to time and the wrecking ball. Also in 2001 a downtown transit center and an adjacent 150-stall park-and-ride garage were completed. Renton increased its population again by annexing the Benson Hill Communities in 2008, as well as other, smaller “Potential Annexation Areas” (PAA), making it the fastest growing city in Washington state in the 2000s. In 2012 the largest PAA—the West Hill community of Lakeridge, Bryn Mawr, and Skyway — narrowly defeated annexation on the ballot.

Renton also became one of the most diverse cities in Washington, with Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, and other immigrant populations quickly growing. By 2011 Renton had officially become a “majority minority” city, in which racial minorities outnumbered whites. Students in the Renton School District spoke 87 different languages. The Renton School District, Renton Technical College, the library, the museum, and many other organizations considered how to best serve people with a variety of different languages and cultural traditions.

As more people move to Renton, it is important to recognized the 25,000 Coast Salish peoples in the United States and Canada today. The Duwamish people are still “the people of the inside.” They live in Western Washington communities, attend schools and universities, and work in local fisheries, hospitals, and offices. Today, tribes hold potlatches and have canoe races. Duwamish people still do traditional crafts such as weaving and carving. The Duwamish people encourage everyone to learn more about their culture by visiting with them at local events held at the Muckleshoot Reservation and the Duwamish Longhouse.

In the 2000s the city focused on improving the quality of life for its residents. IKEA Performing Arts Center at Renton High School opened in 2003.  Surplussed Boeing property in North Renton became The Landing, a highly desirable shopping area, with big box stores, restaurants, and a movie theatre. But the new shopping area, combined with the housing bust and recession of 2008, resulted in a downtown that continued to struggle, despite desirable apartments and excellent independent eateries. In 2009 volunteer group RUFF (Renton United for Furry Friends) was the driving force behind the city’s first off-leash dog park on the former NARCO site along the Cedar River.

Boeing remained the city’s largest single employer, with Valley Medical Center a distant second. Renton was still the home of the 737 and by the end of the 1990s, aging international aircraft fleets needed new passenger planes. The airplane manufacturer embarked on a building boom that reached a record 47 737s a month by 2017. Developers also launched a construction boom that included a 399,000 square foot IKEA, the Lofts at Second and Main, and the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington, a $180 million hotel and conference center adjacent to Coulon Beach Park. The city’s low commercial rents also made it a hospitable place for new internet start-ups and entrepreneurs to set up shop.

Social media became the communication and news tool of the future, and institutions—including the City of Renton—learned how to reach out to the “digital natives” born after 1990. But the desire for tradition and nostalgia retained its hold, and after Renton’s independent library system consolidated with King County Library System (KCLS), activists defeated the construction of a new library on a downtown site in favor of renovating the iconic “library over a river.” The Sunset Area redevelopment in the Highlands also featured a new library combined with moderate-income housing and a park.

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