A rendering of what the new Kent Panther Lake Library could look like. Courtesy image, Fivedot architects

Kent to get new library in Panther Lake

A new library is coming next year to Kent at the site of a former casino.

King County Library System plans to remodel the closed Great American Casino, 20500 108th Ave. SE, and open the 6,000-square-foot Kent Panther Lake Library next spring or summer.

“We anticipate a construction time frame of about six to eight months,” said Gregory Smith, director of Facilities Management Services and Development for King County Library System, in an email. “We hope to get started in the first quarter of 2018 and be open to the public by spring or early summer of 2018.”

The project will cost an estimated $1.8 million, Smith said. Funds from the $172 million King County Library System capitol bond measure approved by voters in 2004 will pay for the work.

The measure included a second library on Kent’s East Hill. The downtown Kent Library opened in 1991 at 212 Second Ave., N., and was renovated in 2009 as part of the bond measure.

“We looked for many years for the right spot and finally chose this location as it serves the Panther Lake area where we did not have adequate services,” Smith said.

The remodel for the library will include a complete building renovation with a new exterior; heating, ventilation and air conditioning system; roof; restrooms; shelving; furniture, lighting; and electrical system.

The library will offer books, CDs, lounge seating, computer stations, children’s area, teen area and a public meeting room.

“We are super excited about this project and the support it has received from both the community and city,” said Sharon Khosla, of Fivedot, the Seattle-based architects designing the library, in an email. “We feel confident that this project will bring a positive, inspiring and engaged public venue to this neighborhood, support the community in many ways and activate the commercial core along 108th.”

New landscaping will enhance the exterior and interior experience, Khosla said. When the work is done, people will notice many changes inside the building.

“We have opened the building up as much a possible,” Khosla said. “The existing building has lots of large windows on three sides of the building. They were all boarded up when the building was a casino. These will bring a lot of natural light into the building. The building also has an area where the ceiling is quite high. We are adding skylights to enhance this area and to create a well lit and inspiring reading room.”

King County Library System initially planned to call it the Kent East Hill Library but changed the name to Kent Panther Lake after input from residents at a couple of public meetings earlier this year.

The city hearing examiner had a public hearing for the conditional use permit submitted by King County Library System on Aug. 2 and is expected to issue a decision about the project this month.

“We have no reason to believe it won’t be approved,” said city senior planner Erin George. “The city has received positive feedback from the public about the proposed project, and I understand the library’s outreach efforts have yielded similar positive results.”

King County Library System expects to bid the project this fall.

The Great American Casino closed in 2015 because of financial losses. The casino opened its Kent site in 2003 at the former Izzy’s restaurant.

Great American recently opened a new location in Des Moines along Pacific Highway South.

The city of Kent bans casinos but allowed Great American to keep operating after Kent annexed the Panther Lake area in 2010.

During the first 13 years of the library system capital improvement plan approved by voters, 16 new libraries have opened, 11 libraries were expanded, 14 libraries were renovated and two parking expansion projects were completed.

The former Great American Casino will become the new Kent Panther Lake Library. Heidi Sanders/Kent Reporter

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