116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Public Library is well on its way to bringing to life a new westside library with the Cedar Rapids City Council’s vote to allocate $6 million toward the project.
The city’s contribution of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars gets the library closer to its goal of raising $25 million to build a permanent facility.
The site of the new library — 27 acres at the corner of 20th Avenue and Wiley Boulevard SW — would interplay with housing, open space and other amenities. It would replace the Ladd Library, 3750 Williams Blvd. SW, a leased space that opened in 2013 and was established through a grant from the Hall-Perrine Foundation.
Amber McNamara, the library’s community relations manager, said the funding “sets us up to make the permanent library a reality.”
Campaign will seek to raise $10 million
The Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation already has committed $2 million to the new facility, Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt said. The Linn County Board of Supervisors last week allocated $4 million in ARPA funds, so the project has secured at least $12 million of the $25 million total.
To fill in the remaining gap, the library is looking to secure $3 million through other state and federal resources. A community investment campaign is seeking to raise $10 million.
McNamara said the library board next week will discuss finalizing the capital campaign ask now that the money from local governments and the foundation is secured.
The design, development and fundraising campaign is anticipated to begin in November and wrap up in June 2024. A groundbreaking is slated for summer 2024, with a summer or fall 2026 opening.
Feedback from a recent feasibility study showed that people believe in this project and many would be interested in contributing to the capital campaign, McNamara said.
Elsabeth Hepworth, a member of the library’s board of trustees, told the council that with 28 percent of households in southwest Cedar Rapids sitting below the poverty line, “this quadrant of our community is in need of information, experiences and services that this facility will provide.”
Hepworth said this endeavor would be the largest public-private partnership on the west side of Cedar Rapids in recent history.
“The westside library project will make way for a public facility — one that everyone in our community will be able to enjoy without barriers to access, such as fees or memberships,” Hepworth said.
Design will be welcoming and accessible
The new facility that's being considered is 31,000 square feet — only about 3,000 square feet larger than the Ladd Library, Pratt said. The difference will be in its configuration, which will be more effective than the space currently situated in a former Target. There would be more space both for the adult and children/teen sections, 10 youth computers and more community rooms and class/study rooms.
McNamara said OPN Architects was selected earlier this month to work on the project, so there is still a lot to define in terms of layout and design.
She said there is a “commitment to a library that is even more welcoming and accessible to all of the patrons” already in the neighborhood. The location was selected to keep the facility within walking distance of the library’s current patrons who rely on the services provided there, she said.
“Designing a space that really feels like it belongs in that neighborhood and along with the environment on the west side of town, that's really important,” McNamara said.
Moving forward, she said the library will seek public input throughout the design process.
“We want to make sure that people stay connected to us so that they can engage with us throughout that process,” McNamara said.
Opportunity Center’s job training, social services will transfer to new library
Pratt said the city has received feedback that many seniors prefer the Ladd Library for its convenience, such as easy parking access. Many community members need human services on the west side, she said, so incorporating the Opportunity Center at Ladd Library has been a great collaboration.
McNamara said the Opportunity Center is located in a renovated warehouse space that wasn’t designed for its current use. A new, dedicated center will offer, for instance, a chance to create an exit from outside into the center, and to configure space to be operational for the multitude of partners who occupy the space.
The center partners with Kirkwood Community College, United Way of East Central Iowa and nonprofit Urban Dreams, among others, to offer a connection to support services such as education, job training and placement, social services, housing and more.
After the 2020 derecho pummeled Cedar Rapids, the facility served as a resiliency hub for the distribution of food and other resources to residents, and for local nonprofits and service providers to gather to serve storm victims.
“We very quickly found out that it really does serve more than just as a library in that neighborhood,” Pratt said.
Pratt said securing a permanent location on the west side ensures that the multitude of services offered at the existing library continue, including:
- A welcoming, accessible space for the local immigrant population
- Access to workforce development and training
- Increased access to broadband for individuals in nearby affordable housing units
- Enhanced connectivity and walkability with more green space and sidewalks
- Recreational opportunities
- A sense of place for community events showcasing the multicultural population
Final ARPA allocations expected this year
To get the city’s final slices of ARPA money out the door, Pratt said the council on Nov. 8 is slated to consider allocations for several projects, including a second westside flood control project and renovations of the former Colonial Center into affordable housing in Wellington Heights. The council also will consider ARPA funds for workforce initiatives and core neighborhood projects later this fall or in December.
The city already has committed funds to the PATCH home-repair program for derecho-damaged homes, social service and affordable housing projects, replenishing hotel-motel tax funds to nonprofits, workforce initiatives and a westside flood control project.
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