Before planning for the long-awaited library in Carrboro can move forward, the Board of Aldermen must solve a parking puzzle downtown.
A plan to co-locate the future Orange County Southern Branch Library, some town offices, the ArtsCenter and other civic groups was lauded as a “dream project” when presented to the board this summer. The project would replace the 88 public parking spaces now available on a town lot at 203 S. Greensboro St.
The original concept called for a 55,000 square foot building and an adjacent parking deck with up to 300 spaces to provide parking for all the building uses and replace what would be lost with the development of the lot. The building could cost as much as $13.75 million; the deck would add another $4.2 million.
But the aldermen criticized that design as “a parking deck with a library attached to it,” asking town planners and consulting architect Jim Spencer to come up with other ideas for how to handle parking.
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On Tuesday, Spencer offered a variety of options, including moving parking underground or off-site, potentially on a nearby lot the town would purchase.
He told the board each presented its own challenges, and it's not clear what, if any, cost savings the town would realize.
Building an underground deck that can support multiple stories costs more than an above-ground parking deck, he noted, and there are geological challenges at the site as well.
“Thirteen to sixteen feet down there's some rock, so how easy it is to excavate rock is always a bit of an unknown,” he said.
Moving parking off-site to one of several lots nearby could be a viable option, but would likely involve purchasing land from private owners, and Spencer said the town would still need to make sure there was some parking available at the site for quick drop-offs and those with limited mobility.
“That balance has to be figured out, especially considering a lot of library users are older people, they're not all wealthy people, so access to the site has got to be carefully considered,” he said. “It’s easy to say you can park nearby and walk, but not everyone can.”
Board members expressed interest in a potential new design concept that could include two separate buildings with parking off-site and more public open space, but said they need input from residents and more data on cost and feasibility from town staff before moving ahead with the project.
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The Board of Aldermen announced a pair of free information sessions to help DACA beneficiaries renew their applications to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services before the Oct. 5 deadline.
Earlier this month the Trump administration announced it would phase out the the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program launched in 2012 that allowed undocumented residents brought to the U.S. as children to apply for work permits and to defer deportation action for two years at a time.
The town and El Centro Hispano will hold an info session from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, at Town Hall to help current DACA recipients review what documents they need.
They will hold a follow-up workshop from 1:30-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, to walk applicants through the renewal process.
Mayor Lydia Lavelle said Carrboro is working to help defray the $495 DACA renewal fee. El Centro is also accepting private donations to help too.
Lavelle said similar clinics offered around the state have seen a mixed reception, as some DACA recipients are reluctant to come forward, fearing deportation.
“We hope to be the most welcoming place around to have this kind of activity happen,” she said.
According to the board, 22,000 current DACA beneficiaries live in North Carolina, the eighth highest number in the nation.