Shh, can you hear that? That’s the sound of psychedelic guitar rifs blowing in on the Puget Sound breeze. You hear that because you’re moving to Renton, Washington, the birthplace (and final resting place, for all you pilgrims of rock) of Jimi Hendrix. Jimi may be long gone, but these days Renton is a bustling city of 90,000 situated a blessed eleven miles from the land of Starbucks and the Space Needle itself, Seattle. Renton may be a former dreary coal manufacturing hub, but believe you me - these days it’s known for its affordable rents and rising star in Washington’s West Coast scene. Whether you’re searching for yesterday’s Seattle grunge, a lucrative aviation job or just a really great cup of coffee and a rainy day, Renton has you covered on all fronts. Now let’s throw on your flannel shirt and Birkenstocks and get down to rocking out on your apartment hunt.
Though Jimi Hendrix’s roots were in Renton, the city (particularly when he lived here) wasn’t really all that rock-n-roll. Dominated by industrial development until the 90s, Renton had a mixed safety record and a rural feel, which naturally would send any young, angsty teenager straight for a guitar. Recent development, however, has kept the downtown and urban areas from hollowing out like many post-industrial cities. Aviation industry giants Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration relocated their respective offices to downtown Renton and, in a spectacular gold star for not-evil corporations, rejuvenated the area in a big way with its flight-oriented pizzazz. Renton now has a tantalizing mix of safe, affordable urban neighborhoods serving up everything chic and cooler than cool, as well as farther-flung, family-friendly suburbs with plenty of space to get the kids all sugared up and running in circles till nap time.
Whether it’s shopping, restaurants or nightlife you’re after, the new Renton developments can provide. The downtown area has a number of increasingly funky bars and restaurants, as well as a charming farmer’s market (very West Coast). There is also a new northern shopping center, The Landing, providing mixed commercial facilities. Finally, lest we forget, there is also Renton’s proximity to Seattle with an even wider array of coffee shops and umbrellas located just a hop, skip and jump away.
Renton is fairly notorious for being both affordable and “up-and-coming.” This means a couple of things: first that rents in Renton are some of the lowest in the greater Seattle area, and secondly, that they probably won’t stay that way for long. It should be noted, however, that Renton has been in the process of redeveloping and weeding out some less desirable elements since the early 90s, so it doesn’t hurt to be selective when choosing your new neighborhood, as certain parts of town can be, we’ll just say it, pretty sketchy.
Some of the most desirable real estate in Renton lies along the eastern shores of Lake Washington. This area, frequently referred to by locals as “up the hill,” has a number of great, suburban neighborhoods like May Creek and Kennydale, all within decent public school districts so your progeny can fill their brains with the history of the Arabica coffee bean while you enjoy a cup on your balcony with a great view. Lake Washington is also a desirable spot, but new development in this area means that it’s becoming a bit TOO desirable and rents can skyrocket. Expect to pay between $800-1000 in north Renton. Just south of downtown, the neighborhood of Fairwood is also an attractive family-oriented area that feels slightly less suburban but boasts a good school district to attract large numbers of families.
Downtown Renton is perhaps the most actively revitalizing neighborhood in the city. Along the downtown corridor you can find several new apartment and condo buildings, as well as mixed-use commercial spaces, shopping centers, bars and restaurants. With the exception of the apartment buildings directly surrounding the downtown transit center, all of these rentals are great options for Renton singles on the prowl looking for easy access to Seattle, as well as a taste of Renton’s own nightlife. Two bedrooms downtown generally carry the highest price tag, frequently going for $1100-1400, but you can’t put a price on the perfect bachelor pad, now can you? If the price just isn’t right in downtown, check out the developments around The Landing in north central Renton. Two bedrooms in these areas generally go for slightly less at $1000-1200 and provide nearly the same amenities and wine-and-cheese party hosting space.
The eastern portion of Renton is generally considered nicer than the west, as proximity to Seattle makes western Renton fairly maligned in terms of its safety record. If you do need to live close to Seattle, whether for a shorter commute or just to be that much closer to the Space Needle, the western neighborhood of Earlington has a good safety record and affordable housing. On the quieter, eastern side, check out the Honey Creek neighborhood for some affordable options. Two bedrooms in these areas generally go for $800-1000, so while you may be a bit further from the action, you’ll be drinking fair-trade organic Arabica instead of freeze-dried imitation coffee as you laugh at those poor shmoes with higher rents.
It’s a good idea to start your Renton apartment search 40-60 days before your move. Unless you’re dead set on moving into a downtown development, you’ll want to see all that Renton has to offer in terms of rental types, and this can take time. Most apartments are available without the aid of a real estate agent, as they are listed on online apartment databases. Be prepared to pay up to $50 for an application fee and credit check. Deposits in Renton generally cost one month’s rent.
Renton is connected to Seattle proper by the I-5, which also happens to connect other Seattle suburbs to the city. This means you’ll experience plenty of delightful traffic coming into and out of Seattle during weekday rush hours and you should allow at least 30 to 45 painful minutes to make the 11-mile drive. As far as public transit goes, Renton is served by the King County Metro and Sound Transit Express Bus. The former provides bus service from the downtown transit center throughout many of Renton’s neighborhoods, as well as into Seattle. The STE bus provides quick transportation from downtown Renton into Seattle and Bellevue. With all the aviation industry based here, you’d think private planes to the grocery store would be more popular, but maybe that’s not a ‘green’ enough option?
So welcome to Renton! You can say a lot about this small Seattle satellite, but what you definitely can’t say is that it isn’t cool as a cucumber in a rainy Washington garden. It’s got industry, economy, commerce and affordability to spare so rest assured you won’t be the only one migrating here. Whether you plan on living the rock-n-roll lifestyle downtown or prefer a quieter, suburban existence, you’ll be sure to find an apartment that’s right for you at a price you can’t top, so beat the crowds now!