Hundreds of people turned out for the public debut of the Hilliard branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library on June 21.

Several local dignitaries spoke during a grand-opening ceremony that preceded the library's opening.

Construction of the 2-story, 63,000-square-foot facility at 4500 Hickory Chase Way began last summer at the 6.8-acre site, a mixed-use development that includes several new apartment buildings on 86 acres south of Davidson Road and east of Leap Road.

Regular hours of operation will begin Friday, June 22. Those hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

The building that became the library was intended to be the clubhouse of Hickory Chase, a luxury community for senior citizens. It was being developed by Baltimore-based Erickson Communities until it filed for bankruptcy in 2009. California-based Greenwich Investors Hickory Chase purchased the land a few years later and Hilliard, in turn, bought 6.8 acres for $6 million and gave it to the library.

The library system then purchased the nearly completed clubhouse for $800,000 and started converting and furnishing it last year, according to library spokesman Ben Zenitsky.

Among the several hundreds of people who made the 63,000 square feet seem not quite so expansive were Chelsea Fox and Marisa Moreno.

Both were frequent visitors at the former Cemetery Road branch and each brought a 18-month-old child at the grand opening.

“It even larger than I expected,” Moreno said. “I like it has a place to store strollers.”

Fox took note of the accessibility of books in the children’s area.

“It’s a lot easier for little kids to get to books," she said.

Persistent rain forced the festivities inside; tables and chairs placed outside the entrance were unused as an impromptu assembly of library and Hilliard officials lauded the groundwork that preceded the opening.

State Rep. Jim Hughes (R-Upper Arlington) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) both presented officials with tokens of recognition for the achievement.

“I’m proud (of this library) as a Hilliard resident,” Kunze said.

Mayor Don Schonhardt said the unplanned path to the new library was “an example of endurance, faith and commitment,” as well as an example of “the best collaboration” he had seen in central Ohio.

Meanwhile, the Public Perk-run Kerr's Cafe, which is run by the owners of Coffee Connections of Hilliard, the Lil’ Donut Factory and the Coffee Mess, was doing brisk business in the first hours of operation. 

“I love that I can get a coffee here,” Moreno said.

Customers also lined up to exchange old library cards for a commemorative edition library card that was only issued at the grand opening.