Saturday, March 3, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Broadview library officials during a March 2 groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility. | VFP
In November 2012, a referendum calling for the Broadview Public Library District to issue $4.1 million worth of bonds for the purpose of renovating its existing facility and constructing a new building alongside the current one, passed with 81 percent of the vote.
Nearly six years later, the public is finally getting what it asked for.
On March 2, Broadview Public Library officials presided over a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 3,000-square-foot building that will be built on an empty lot adjacent the library’s existing 17,000-square-foot facility, located at 2226 S. 16th Ave.
The entire renovation, which will include contractors gutting the existing building and creating a brand new facade to flow seamlessly in front of the old and the new buildings, is scheduled to start sometime this month and is due for completion by June 2019, library officials said.
The ceremony comes several months after an Oct. 13, 2017 court order cleared the way for the library to start construction. The library district and the village of Broadview had been fighting a long, protracted legal battle over the validity of zoning variances that were issued, with a unanimous vote, to the library by the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals in 2013.
“We had to sue to get what the people wanted,” said Katrina Arnold, the library board vice president who was board president at the time of the referendum, after Friday’s ceremony.
Arnold said that after costs unrelated to construction, such as technology upgrades, are accounted for, the total cost of the project will be around $5.4 million.
“I took pictures with our court order, because this wouldn’t have happened without it,” said Eric Cummings, the library board president.
During the court battle, Arnold and other people in support of the renovation and expansion claimed that village officials tried to sabotage those plans, preferring instead to construct a building that the library would share with commercial tenants. The library board voted down that proposal.
“The issue was politics,” said Princess Dempsey, a Lindop School District 92 board member, who campaigned for the referendum back in 2012.
Friday’s ceremony, many people said, turns the page on that tumultuous chapter of Broadview’s history.
“This is going to be amazing and it’s long overdue,” said Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson after the ceremony. “This shows that, although we may see things differently, we still can get things done. That’s the message.”
Thompson sat on the library board during that years-long struggle. Last year, she campaigned for mayor with the support of former Broadview mayor Sherman Jones, whose administration lined up against the library district in court.
“I got on the library board so we could push this initiative forward but the turmoil and the bitterness prevented us from moving it forward,” Thompson said Friday. “That’s why, when I became the mayor, I made a pledge to the former board president that I’m here to assist and get it done.”
Despite its air of promise, the ceremony was still somewhat bittersweet for those who fought for the renovation and expansion to happen.
Due to the legal wrangling, the facility that library officials anticipate opening next summer will be a scaled-down version of what had been initially planned several years ago. The original plans were for a 5,000-square-foot building addition that would include a basement expansion.
Architectural renderings for the proposed Broadview Public Library renovation. Left, renderings from 2013. Right, updated renderings to account for the library’s scaled back plans. | Courtesy Broadview Public Library
“We had to give up on the basement expansion because construction costs are higher than they were five years ago and the library owes over $100,000 in legal fees,” said Wayne Arnold, the husband of Katrina Arnold and chairman of the village’s zoning board who voted in 2013 to issue the variances.
Wayne said that the library board plans on asking the village to pay back the $1.4 million he said the library lost because of the court battle.
In the meantime, library employees are looking forward to a new chapter. Keisha Hester, the library’s executive director, said that library staff hopes the expansion and renovation attracts more patrons to the community institution.
“We’re hoping that more Broadview residents will come in and want to be part of this new space,” Hester said Friday. “We’re always seeking to figure out how to draw people in.”
Bob Lafferty, the technical services librarian and interim director, said that the current building, constructed back in 1968, is long overdue for a renovation.
He said that the project will allow the library to become a real 21st Century institution that caters to the needs of a population that’s grown accustomed to E-readers and barcodes.
Video footage of what the library will look like inside once renovations are complete next summer played on a screen after Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony. | VFP
“More technology will be incorporated into the new building and we’ll use the space more efficiently,” he said.
Hester said that the library is looking forward to technology upgrades such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) that will allow patrons to check out books and other materials on their own and much faster.
The library, she added, was recently approved to be a passport facility, allowing patrons to visit the Broadview library to process their passport applications. Hester said that the library, however, will not issue photos. Employees may refer people to nearby Walgreen’s for that service, she said.
The library board hired Dewberry Architects Inc. to oversee the project’s design. Representatives with the company said that the new construction and renovated building will feature all new mechanical and electrical systems.
“Everything will be much more energy efficient,” said Douglas Pfeiffer, an associate principal with Dewberry. “We’re going to incorporate a lot of environmental features in the building.”
Jeff M. Keppler, a senior project architect with Dewberry, said that the extra square footage will allow the library to evolve into the 21st Century community space that libraries are transforming into during this post-print age.
“They’ll still have the physical collection of books, but they’ll also have an abundance of community space that we’re adding,” Keppler said. “There will be everything from small group study rooms to larger format meeting rooms. So there will be a variety of different spaces used by the community.” VFP
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