MARION — Abandoning an earlier idea of tearing down Marion’s library and building a larger one there as part of a mixed-use project, the library board and developer now are hoping to secure some other land for the concept within 30 days.
The Marion Public Library Board, director and representative from developer Ryan Companies presented the modified plans to the Marion City Council last week.
Susan Kling, president of the library board, said once Ryan Companies is able to find a location and provide a cost estimate, the board plans to ask the City Council to schedule a public referendum on issuing bonds to pay for the project.
Kling said at this point she’s unsure if the city would lease or buy the library space.
Board members have long said the community was outgrowing the 24,500-square-foot library building, but debate over what do about it has gone on for years.
In September 2014, the library board brought developer Ryan Companies on board to conceptualize a mixed-use facility that would house the library as well retail and apartment spaces.
Such a facility would provide more space for the library and bring more housing and retail to the core of Marion, said Lydia Brown, director of development for Ryan Companies.
“By creating that retail front, we will allow for the city to generate tax revenue, as well as the revenue that comes from the apartments above,” Brown said. “When the space was created, it was not only to create a library, it was to create a revenue stream that would assist in paying for the upkeep and operational expenses of the library.”
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Elsworth Carman, the library director since March, said earlier plans for the facility included:
l Tearing down the current library at 1095 Sixth Ave, which was built in 1996, and building a two-story structure in the same location.
l Building a mixed-use facility with a skywalk across the street from the Sixth Avenue building.
Carman said that after hearing feedback from residents, the board and Ryan Companies modified their plans.
“We got a lot of community feedback that there was concern of taking down a building that was fairly new,” Carman said. “It’s definitely been outpaced by the community growth. The questions were: does it make sense to take down a building that could be reused if you widen your footprint a little bit and add to it. But the cost of building on could be as much or more than if you were to build a new building.”
Carman also said residents didn’t like a skywalk downtown.
At last week’s City Council work session, Brown said the group no longer planned to build on the site of existing structure. It plans to secure another location soon in Uptown Marion, though Brown said she couldn’t disclose the location yet because negotiations were underway.
Under the proposed library design Brown showed the council, the new space would be 40,000 to 45,000 square feet and budgeted at $12 million.
Carman said the library would be one story and have as open of a floor plan as possible so it could be restructured based on future needs.
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“We will customize that space as the community grows and changes,” he said. “From a library perspective, the square footage that we’re talking about, that would allow us to have a very functional main library with as few fixed walls as possible.”
Brown said Ryan Companies is partnering with Genesis Equities to create 80 market-rate apartments above the library, but Ryan Companies has not yet reached out to potential retailers.
Kling said she hopes to compile information for Marion voters as soon as the board has more information on costs.
Under a bond referendum, voters would have to agree to tax themselves extra to pay for the project.
Carman said he hopes the concept progress.
“It will be a symbiotic relationship where the library draws foot traffic from the retail, the retail draws foot traffic from the library,” he said. “Everyone feeds off that additional energy and bodies.
“The library is perceived as wholesome learning organization. I think that’s something people are drawn to, especially when we’re talking about the core of Uptown.”