CEDAR RAPIDS — Wednesday night’s decision to move the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s west-side branch out of its longtime home centered on the numerous advantages the new site offers, Director Bob Pasicznyuk said.
A unanimous library board directed Pasicznyuk to negotiate a long-term lease to place the branch library in a portion of a former Target store that’s across the street from its current facilities at Westdale Mall.
The branch will move from Westdale at the end of the year after the new space is renovated. The library will retain some staff at the mall site, which has served as the system’s main branch since the Floods of 2008, until the new central library opens downtown in June 2013.
Library board members and Pasicznyuk said moving the branch out of Westdale Mall was not a close call. The space in the former Target store is less expensive, is not tied to the hours of the mall, has its own street presence, has windows to the outdoors to provide natural light and can accommodate an automated drive-up book drop, Pasicznyuk noted.
By the fifth year of a lease, Pasicznyuk said, the library’s operating costs at the Target store site would be $184,500 a year, compared with $280,000 a year at the former Bishop’s site in the mall and $240,000 a year at the former Osco site in the mall.
The store site also has room for the Iowa Substance Abuse Information Center and its warehouse needs, while the mall sites did not. The center pays the library $40,000 a year, which the library would have to use to rent out additional space if it remained in the mall, Pasicznyuk said.
The uncertainty about just what might happen to the long-struggling mall also factored into the decision. There had not been a clamoring from the public for the library branch to stay at Westdale as a way to help keep the shopping center viable.In the end, the board picked the former Target store over the two sites in the mall, a former theater location on the mall property and a nearby medical office building, which was only half the size needed for a branch library.