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Carrboro vote moves Orange County library branch closer to checkout

Orange County Library volunteer David Knox, 13, of Hillsborough looks for a specific title to complete a display of books about women writers in the upstairs Adult and Teen book area in this file photo from 2014. The Carrboro aldermen authorized the town manager to begin working with Orange County this week to bring a county library branch to downtown Carrboro.
Orange County Library volunteer David Knox, 13, of Hillsborough looks for a specific title to complete a display of books about women writers in the upstairs Adult and Teen book area in this file photo from 2014. The Carrboro aldermen authorized the town manager to begin working with Orange County this week to bring a county library branch to downtown Carrboro. File photo

Plans for Orange County’s Southern Branch Library took a key step forward as the Carrboro aldermen voted unanimously to work with the county to build the library across the street from the Open Eye Cafe.

Tuesday night’s vote authorizing the town manager to enter into a development agreement with the county brought a burst of applause from board members, some of whom have been working to bring a library branch to Carrboro for decades.

The 0.8 acre site at 203 S. Greensboro St. is currently a town-owned parking lot, but consulting architect Jim Spencer told the board it could be redeveloped into a three or four story building big enough to house the library, town offices, and possibly another civic organization like the ArtsCenter.

He said the site could support up to 53,000 square feet of building space and 280 to 300 parking spaces in an adjoining parking deck.

Spencer told the board the project would allow the Recreation and Parks department to consolidate all its offices, programs and storage in one space, thus freeing up room in other town-owned buildings. The Carrboro Police Department could expand its footprint in the Century Center, while still leaving Century Hall available for town-sponsored events or rental to outside groups.

Down the road, these expansions could make it easier for the town to temporarily relocate departments while renovating Town Hall and other town properties.

The multi-use building at 203. S. Greensboro St. would cost roughly $13.75 million, Spencer said. Structured parking would cost an additional $4.2 million.

Whatever is built on the lot will replace the 88 parking spaces on the site now, many of which are used by customers visiting restaurants and shops downtown. The aldermen considered how to balance the needs of nearby businesses with the cost to build a deck, and how that might fit into the wider downtown parking plan.

Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell reminded the board of the county’s interest in making sure the library serves the wider population beyond downtown Carrboro.

“I want to be sure that we’re all really sensitive to the fact that this needs to be a Southern Orange County library, not just a neighborhood library,” said Haven-O’Donell. “We want to be sure that when the library opens that having adequate parking for people coming in from the entire Southern Orange County is possible.”

If a parking deck comes with a price tag of $4.2 million, town planners might think how that money could be used to provide downtown parking in a more creative way, suggested Alderwoman Jacquie Gist.

“Is it possible that we use this money to purchase and augment land nearby to meet these parking needs?” she asked.

The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed library project on June 27. If approved, town leaders anticipate a library ribbon-cutting in the spring of 2019.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen also:

▪ elected Damon Seils to serve as mayor pro tem, following the resignation of Michelle Johnson.

▪ allocated $3,000 for the Orange County Food Council to help develop strong local food systems and make healthy food available to those in need.

▪ approved the 2017-18 budget, maintaining the property tax rate at 58.94 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The $22.8 million plan is 3.8 percent more than last year’s budget. Town employees will receive a 3 percent salary increase, while hourly employees will earn a minimum of $12.75 an hour.

Elizabeth Friend: efriend.email@gmail.com

What’s next

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing on the proposed library project at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, at Carrboro Town Hall. If the project is approved, town leaders anticipate a library ribbon-cutting in the spring of 2019.

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