Library not moving downtown soon

kjahner@newsobserver.comMay 27, 2014 

— At last Tuesday’s council meeting, Garner’s leaders passed a resolution supporting Wake County’s renovations to the Southeast Regional Library – after having opposed them in hopes the county would build a new library downtown.

The hopes for a downtown library haven’t disappeared forever, but they have for the near term. The week before the council passed its resolution, county leaders voted on their Community Improvements Plan.

“It became apparent as they finished up their CIP that they didn’t have the funding for it,” Town Manager Hardin Watkins said. “So we said ‘OK, we’ll move on.’”

Watkins notes that the town still owns most of the land next to what will become a new $7.8 million recreation center, and will continue recruiting potential anchors to help facilitate activity downtown. The county could also eventually move the library to a new facility, though if that happens it would take a new bond, which could be about 5 to 7 years down the road.

In the meantime, the existing library on Seventh Avenue will see about $700,000 in work, including removal of some partitions and reconfiguring to better use the space.

“The renovations will be nice. They’re going to try to upgrade it and make it more usable, try to buy as many years as (they) can,” Watkins said.

In addition, the library’s parking lot will see changes as the town rebuilds the former medical office buildings across the street into a new police station.

Downtown plans

The town had approached the county a few years ago about moving the library to a site on Main and Purvis streets next to the planned rec center. It wanted to create more traffic in the area along with the Garner Performing Arts Center, Garner Baseball, and other amenities in order to to more rapidly spur other development.

The $35.7 million bond passed in March of 2013, aside from funding the half of the rec center not covered by the ConAgra gift and grants, will purchase land and rebuild Purvis and Montague streets to better link U.S. 70 to Main Street.

Too many other new library projects were granted higher priority, so Garner will plan and build the recreation center knowing the library, if possible, is at least distant.

The town has narrowed a field of applicants down to its top choice for an architect to design the multi-gym facility with multipurpose spaces and a walking track. It is currently conducting reference checks, Watkins said.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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