By Jane Smith
Boynton Beach administrators want to combine the library with a new city hall in the ambitious Town Square development.
To do so, they are determining whether the Boynton Woman’s Club, recently purchased by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, will work as a temporary location for the library from around April to the project’s scheduled completion in late 2019, said Colin Groff, assistant city manager.
“It will be smaller,” Groff said in late November. “The library will have to come up with a creative storage system that works for patrons.”
The temporary library will have a Wi-Fi system to allow patrons to connect to the internet and check their emails, Groff said.
The Woman’s Club, now formally called The Historic Woman’s Club of Boynton Beach, at 1010 S. Federal Highway, sits about a mile away from the current library at 208 S. Seacrest Blvd. The structure housed the first city library.
Because the Woman’s Club is a historic building, the CRA purchased it on an as-is basis. The building has an elevator to provide access to the second floor. “However, as a historic structure, there are limitations to full compliance (with wheelchair-accessibility requirements) and there are provisions in the Florida Building Code which acknowledges these conditions,” said Thuy Shutt, CRA assistant director.
To prepare and move, the library will have to close for two to four weeks, said Craig Clark, library director. The timeline calls for the library to be in its temporary place by April 1. Demolition of the library will start May 1, according to the schedule.
Earlier this year, the Town Square plans called for the library to be renovated and connected to the new city hall. That changed, Groff said, when commissioners requested more workforce housing units in Town Square, a 16.5-acre area that will become the downtown for Boynton Beach.
“To open up space for the residential units, the library was combined with the city hall,” he said. The units will be rentals because that’s what lenders are willing to underwrite now, Groff said.
Between 1,200 and 1,600 patrons use the library daily, Clark said, and people flocked there after Hurricane Irma when power was out throughout the city but the library had electricity and air-conditioning.
Clark listed the most popular sections as newer books, fiction collection and medical and travel books in the nonfiction collection.
Clark said the library has evolved to become the community’s living room.
“The library was among the first organizations that handled email. It’s where you go to learn about new technology,” he said. “It’s relevant today and will still be relevant in 20 years.”
The library is becoming known worldwide for its Boynton history archives, Clark said.
“I recently spoke with a man from Melbourne, Australia,” he said. “The man is writing about a boat that sank in the Boynton Inlet in 1993. He traced the boat’s history back to 1915.”
In the combined building, the library will have about 13,000 square feet less space.
But that doesn’t bother Clark.
“There’s a lot of wasted space in the library and city hall,” he said. “The commission chambers are used about eight times a month for City Commission, CRA and other board meetings. In the new building, the chambers will double as a children’s story-telling space.”
Construction of the 105,000-square-foot city hall/library building is set to start on June 1 and end by Sept. 1, 2019.