Government

Marion City Council supports new direction for library

Project likely to cost $18 million, could lead to land purchase

Marion Public Library Director Hollie Trenary stands Nov. 26, 2018, among stacks of books. Trenary said the library’s limited space has forced books to be placed on the top and bottom shelves, where readers find it difficult to reach them. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Marion Public Library Director Hollie Trenary stands Nov. 26, 2018, among stacks of books. Trenary said the library’s limited space has forced books to be placed on the top and bottom shelves, where readers find it difficult to reach them. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

MARION — Leaders of the Marion Public Library have received the support of local elected officials to go in another direction in the yearslong quest to find space for a larger facility.

In April, city staff had decided to scrap a plan to create a library as part of a new multipurpose development at what is now the Marion Square Plaza strip mall.

During that time, library Director Hollie Trenary pointed to a piece of land next door to the existing library — already owned by the city and used for overflow parking — that could become the site for a new library building.

“We have a plot of land next door that is an option. But I don’t want to exclude any other opportunities that may be available to us, as we’re planning on what those next moves might be,” Trenary said.

Last week, the City Council agreed to support a project not to exceed $18 million for building a 52,000-square-foot free-standing library somewhere in Uptown, plus land acquisition costs if needed. The resolution passed 6-0 with council member Colette Atkins absent.

Marion’s current public library, at 1095 Sixth Ave., was built in 1996 and is about 24,000 square feet. An assessment done in January shows it needs more than double that space — about 52,000 square feet.

Potential funding sources include using a local-option sales tax that went into effect about five years ago for $5 million; sale of the current lot for an estimated $3 million; a capital campaign to raise about $3 million; and tax increment financing for $1 million; and bonding for the remaining gap, estimated at $6 million.

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The city previously had issued a request for proposals to develop the current library land, which estimated its value at $2.5 million at the time. Officials received only one proposal and library leaders would likely want the new library done before moving out of the current space.

As for next steps toward a new library, Trenary said the library staff and board just kicked off a feasibility study to get a more specific idea of how much private funding they would be able to raise. Results likely will be back in August, Trenary said. Then leaders will better determine how much they might have to use bonds to finance.

“I’m trying to move (as) quickly as can I can. I really think that the community is looking for the answer and looking for the next steps,” Trenary said. “For me, personally, I just want to make sure we get it right. And I want to be in a hurry. And I want to make sure that we’re meeting the expectations of the community.”

As the project progresses, Trenary said she hopes to develop a cross-generational, community-led steering committee, which likely would convene focus groups. If community members are interested in being involved, they should leave contact information on the library’s Ask a Librarian page.

“Let’s say we have a teenager that wants to be a part of the steering committee. We’re going to ask that team to host a focus group and gather information about what their peer group is looking for in the library,” Trenary said. “We are very eager to provide the best representation of Marion that we can in this building, really focused on honoring our heritage and history.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

How We’ve Covered This:

The Gazette has covered the Marion Public Library expansion extensively because it’s a project a decade in the making. Both the current library and possible sites for a new one are in Marion’s Uptown district. .

For the last half decade, project leaders hoped to construct a new library inside a mixed-use development next to Marion Square Plaza. Now, officials have decided the financial challenges associated with changes in state law would force them to go back to the drawing board to find a new solutions.

Take a look back at The Gazette’s past coverage:

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• October 2016: Marion abandons the idea of tearing down the old library and constructing a new one on the same site, instead seeing it as part of a mixed-use development.

• February 2017: Marion library and city officials get on the same page for Marion Square Plaza redevelopment to include new library.

• February 2017: Marion community members have differing views on new library space.

• July 2017: Purchase negotiations for Marion Square Plaza take longer than expected.

• June 2018: Marion’s initial view is that a new state law could make building in a multiuse development more challenging than expected.

• November 2018: What the multiuse/library project means for existing businesses in Marion Square Plaza.

• April 2019: Marion library won’t relocate to strip mall site.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.