Council looks at library expansion

Plans for new building will be unveiled

— The City Council and Planning Commission will get their first look tonight at plans for expanding the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

The discussion may go beyond giving input on the site plan, as elected officials decide what their vision is for the two acres of land between 12th and 13th streets, and who would get to use the existing library.

In a joint meeting, the East Routt Library District will present its plans for a three-story, 24,000-square foot public library where the community center and Lockhart Auction and Realty Co. currently stand.

The 3,000-square foot community center would be demolished and the existing 9,779-square-foot library would remain.

The plans call for a building with one level of parking, and two levels for the library.

The district also wants the option to expand the building another 12,000 square feet when needed.

The building would face Soda Creek, with the intention of using the creek to create a peaceful outdoor setting next to the library.

Although the library is sitting in the geographical center of the community, city staff sees the 13th Street location as the westerly gateway into the city.

McHarg said aligning buildings next to the street follows the traditional design in downtown Steamboat, and is a pattern the city would like to encourage on the west side of town as well.

"It is a historic development pattern with buildings right to the street. That continues all the way up to the new library building," McHarg said. "It is a better urban design, a stronger presence as a gateway. It has the ability to open up open space."

But Tom Hopp, president of the board of directors for the East Routt Library District, believes pushing the building away from the street takes advantage of the Soda Creek, Yampa River and open space.

"We see the library utilizing that site in more of a park design," Hopp said. "Parks are on two sides of the library, we really don't see it as the same thing as urban design along Lincoln Avenue. It is a different concept and lends itself well to a community park feel."

Regardless of the placement of the library, both McHarg and City Council President Kathy Connell said they were happy the library was remaining downtown.

Earlier this year, the library board was also looking at using the old junior high on Seventh Street.

"I think it is great to keep the library downtown. I think it has a lot of synergy," Connell said.

The library is easily accessed by the city's bus system and Yampa River Core Trail. It is also close to Howelsen Hill and the Art Depot.

Planning Commission Chair Kathi Meyer sees tonight's discussion as a chance to talk about what is being planned for the existing library and the senior services that are now located in the community center.

"What is in the community center is really a concern. And why are they tearing down a perfectly good building?" Meyer asked.

Meyer also said she wants to know what is being planned for the existing library and how that will effect the parking.

Councilwomen Nancy Kramer has one suggestion for the use of the existing library: a visual arts center.

As executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, Kramer is careful to note that the use is not a guarantee.

But she did write Hopp a letter in August stating that the arts community would like to see the old library used for galleries, resource area, retail space, classrooms, studios, sculpture gardens, outdoor venues and small workshop spaces.

Kramer, who will be stepping down from tonight's discussion, said the city is starting the process to bring the user groups together to see what is the best use for the existing library building.

She said that user groups could include Yampatika, youth programs and those in support of an indoor swimming pool.

"There is strong support from the city to get these groups together to talk about where all these programs belong," Kramer said.

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