City and library officials remain confident they can maintain their partnership, but the library is considering what its "Plan B" would be if the agreement for a new downtown building falls through.
On Monday, June 30, members of the Southwest Public Libraries Board of Trustees planning committee, along with Library Director Mark Shaw and Grove City Administrator Chuck Boso, met at the current Grove City Library to discuss the possibility of extending Columbus Street through the parcel designated for a new Grove City Library.
The new Grove City Library long has been planned in a joint venture with the city to be built at the corner of Grant Avenue and Broadway.
But an extension of Columbus Street that would pass through the parcel recently has surfaced in city planning meetings, as a way to improve connectivity between the Town Center and Beulah Park, which is in contract to be redeveloped. Proponents of the extension say it will create a safer traffic intersection and open back parcels near the new library for commercial development.
But the road extension would impact the configuration of the new building, which already has been designed without it.
On June 16, Grove City Council voted to fund a study that would examine changing the library building's plans to accommodate a Columbus Street extension. The city-funded study is being conducted by Braun & Steidl Architects, the same firm hired to design the new library.
At the library meeting earlier this week, Boso said the results of the study could be expected within 30 days.
"It's the administration's desire and commitment to get a new library on this site that has adequate parking and meets your needs," Boso said to the trustees. "We're committed to getting this done, and I believe we will."
Boso said the current library schedule will be maintained as the study is conducted. The library project is currently in its schematic design phase, which Shaw said he is apprehensive about "plowing ahead with" before the findings of the study are revealed, especially if the study recommends the extension.
"That will render everything we've done (regarding design) pointless," he said.
Shaw said the library is waiting for two things: the recommendation of Braun & Steidl and a commitment from the city to address parking concerns that would arise from a new configuration of the building, if the Columbus Street extension goes through the site.
"We have to be convinced it's best for our patrons," he said.
Library Trustee Jill Billman-Royer said the planned building location should not move if the study states the extension is merely "feasible."
"Our goal was never to move," she said. "We should not move there unless it's optimal."
Library officials also said the current building has a number of issues they need to be prepared to address if the Downtown project ends up not happening and negotiations with the city break down.
"Band-aiding this building is not doing a service to our patrons and residents of Grove City," Billman-Royer said. "We need a viable 'Plan B' if this doesn't happen."
Shaw presented two options for the SPL board to consider if the agreement with the city falls through. The first involves a 6,000- to 7,000-square-foot addition to the east side of the existing library building at 3359 Park St., along with a replacement of the roof and HVAC equipment. SPL currently has $2 million set aside for its commitment to the Downtown project that would be freed up if it doesn't occur.
"Anything more serious than that would require a bond issue," Shaw said.
The second option Shaw offered involves a complete overhaul and expansion of the existing Grove City Library. That would cost an estimated $8 million and would require a bond issue. Because state law restricts bonds from benefiting only a portion of the district, the proposal would also have to include improvements to the Westland Library, which would be another $1 million. This plan would involve a 15,000- to 16,000-square-foot addition to the existing building and a complete reconfiguration.
Under both options, parking would remain an issue, Shaw said, and a bond issue has no guarantee of passing.
Under the agreement between the city and the library system, approved in May 2013, the Grove City Library is to relocate from 3359 Park St. to the parcel at the intersection of Broadway and Grant Avenue.
Grove City is to issue bonds to cover the $14 million new building project -- which includes land acquisition, parking, demolition and other costs, as well as the $10.8 million building.
The library system is to contribute $2 million upfront and transfer ownership of the Park Street site, appraised at $2.5 million, to the city for a new City Hall building.
The current City Hall at 4035 Broadway would be redeveloped, and the city and library system would jointly repay the $14 million bond issue, each making annual payments of $265,087.50, or $22,091 per month.