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DeKALB – The DeKalb Public Library has entered into a purchase agreement with DeKalb Clinic to buy the old clinic campus for $1.8 million.
The library’s attorney, Gary Cordes, announced the decision before a meeting of the library board of trustees on Tuesday night. Though the contract was voted on and signed on June 9 in open session, Cordes said they waited until now to make an announcement because of a 90-day due diligence period. The agenda posted on the library’s website for the June 9 meeting did not mention any discussion or potential action on a property transaction and the minutes for that meeting have not been posted yet. “We have a contract, but with a lot of contingencies,” Cordes said.
These include figuring out financing and doing environmental studies on the vacant medical buildings, which are in the 200 block of Franklin Street. The buildings would be demolished and a library built.
Architects working with library staff have given estimates of an 89,000-square-foot facility, which would be ideal but would depend on funding, library director Dee Coover said.
The current building, in the 300 block of Oak Street and built 80 years ago, is 20,000 square feet.
Funding for a new library would come from several sources.
Cordes said that the tax revenue currently generated is expected to cover the land purchase without a tax hike or going to a referendum. He said they will work with city officials on bonding and for tax increment financing options, and that they hope to attract private donors and look for grants.
“I think the feeling is this project would have to stand on its own without a referendum, without increasing taxes,” Cordes said. “That’s not very popular right now.”
Clinic negotiations began about a year ago, and the next step in the process will be selecting an architect, Cordes said.
The need for more space has been at the forefront of library staff and trustees for the last five years, and several studies – including interior and exterior space studies and a survey of patrons – have been conducted.
Library trustees were told by one consultant that modern libraries need between 1.5 and 2 square feet per patron. In June, about 30,000 people came through the doors, about the same as last year but which is “gradually and slowly going up,” Coover said last week.
Along with accomodating more cardholders, staff struggles to find space for the growing amount of materials and the demand for more computers.
Other issues exist that are not related to space, like limited parking, an aging infrastructure and security.
“I love this library. I love this building,” Coover said. “It has taken a long time to get used to the idea of a new library.”
She added that it was a priority to stay downtown when looking at new space, and that the negotiations with the clinic have been “a long, slow, deliberative process, and we feel good about it.”
“If DeKalb Clinic wasn’t available now, would we be moving? Probably not,” Coover said.