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State official: DeKalb library expansion a 'done deal'

DeKALB – The DeKalb Public Library’s $24 million expansion and renovation plan will take an important final step toward becoming reality this week, officials say.

A spokesman with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office – which oversees the Illinois State Library – said they will have finalized the grant contract with the DeKalb library by the end of this week.

“I think it’s safe to say that this is a done deal,” said spokesman Henry Haupt.

The finalization marks the end of a six-year saga, as library officials sought a way to expand their offerings beyond their cramped space in the Haish Memorial Library, an 80-year-old landmark building at 309 Oak St.

With the contract finalized, library officials will be able to receive the $11.6 million state construction grant in installments as long as they begin construction within 140 days – or by mid-November.

In order to secure the grant, the library had to muster a $12.2 million local match, most of which will come from public funds.

The city of DeKalb is borrowing $6.5 million for the project, in addition to $2 million in tax increment financing funds.

The library also planned to borrow up to $3 million, but officials said they will need only $2.8 million, which they expect to repay over two years through a local fundraising effort. The library also is chipping in $900,000 from its reserves.

The project includes a 46,000-square-foot addition to the library, expanded parking and $4 million in renovations to restore the existing building and make it handicapped-accessible. Although the library board has yet to hire a construction firm, Clark Neher, president of the board, said he was very happy with how things are turning out.

“We’re feeling overwhelmed, we’re feeling quite positive that it’s actually going to happen,” Neher said. “This is a great thing for DeKalb. It will have future ramifications for 30, 40, 50 years. Clearly, we are in desperate need for expanding. We’re not large enough to handle the volume of people who go there on a daily basis.”

The DeKalb library board hired Nagle Hartray Architecture and Owner Services Group as the project architect and owner’s representative, respectively. Each firm will be paid based on a percentage of the project’s total cost.

Construction of the parking lot south of Oak Street is scheduled to begin Sept. 9 and be finished by Nov. 29. 

Work on the building expansion is not scheduled to start until March 31, with the building expected to be finished and open to the public by July 17, 2015. Renovations to the current building would begin after the expansion is finished. The entire project is targeted for completion by March 4, 2016. 

Haupt said the $11.6 million grant is the largest amount a single library is receiving through this construction program.

“The state library will work with the community on the beginning of the construction of this wonderful new library,” Haupt said.

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