Library land acquired

Published 9:19 pm Monday, February 3, 2014

The city will pay a total of $1.6 million for the 10 properties needed to clear the way for a new downtown library.

Some of the properties on Lee Street and West Washington Street were transferred to the city last week. Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said he expects the remaining properties to be acquired this week.

“It was a fair deal all around,” he said of the sales. “We’ve been glad to get the cooperation of the property owners. It’s rare you get to assemble an urban redevelopment site like that with willing sellers.”

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

The new library will sit between South and Lee streets, and the site will stretch west to the other side of Lee Street. The parcels the city will acquire include several residential rental properties and some commercial properties.

Roberts said the city will move immediately to demolish the buildings that are not historic. For the other buildings, the city will have to seek approval from the Historic Landmarks Commission to demolish them.

The city will temporarily re-use some of the commercial buildings that front on West Washington Street for parks operations that have outgrown their space at Peanut Park, Roberts said.

The city in December approved about $2 million in new debt to bankroll the acquisition of the properties.

City leaders say a new library is needed to replace the Morgan Memorial Library a couple of blocks to the west. It is a retrofitted furniture showroom and has outlived its usefulness, they say.

Roberts said the city is pleased with how quickly work on the project is moving along.

“We’re eager to get started on the master plan,” he said.

A partnership in the works with Paul D. Camp Community College would bring resources and classrooms to downtown, with possible future expansion to accommodate an entire campus. Amenities such as a café, local history museum and genealogy center also are planned.

The entire project is estimated to cost around $20 million, but the state would pay approximately $5 million for expenses associated with the community college.