Boca votes to build library north of current location

By Margie Plunkett

The direction Boca Raton council gave its city manager on where to locate the new library: Two blocks north from the current building at the former Causeway Lumber site.

The council favored the new site 3 to 1, and made its wishes known after a Sept. 13 public hearing and years after voters approved a new library.

A one-story Library Commons facility won after the public and commissioners contemplated one- and two-story buildings as well as if the Florida East Coast railway would use the old library as a train station in the event the new passenger rail plan ultimately succeeds.

The selection was made over several options offered up by PGAL Architects, including renovating the old library in stages so that it could remain open throughout construction. The library is at 200 NW Boca Raton Blvd.

Seven years ago, according to Betty Grinnan, chairman of the Committee to Support a New Downtown Library, residents voted to build a new 52,500-square-foot library.
“There is no question the Causeway property — Library Commons — is supported by the library community.”

The largest facility option offered by the architect was 12,000-square-feet smaller than the size voters gave thumbs up to, said Bob Keltie, chairman of Boca Raton’s Library Advisory Board. He favored the Library Commons plan for several reasons, including that the one-story building under consideration would mean lower operating costs and 14 percent less construction time and would make management of library events easier.

Dissenting council member Anthony Majhess questioned a campaign of unsigned emails from Library Commons supporters, calling it “disingenuous” and wondering “if the
lobbyists are registered with the city as required.”

His concerns about the new location included whether Boca Raton would end up financially supporting the old library as an unused “mothball” building. “If it’s not fit for library patrons, I would imagine it would not be fit for others,” Majhess said.

The corner property with a two-story building would be more attractive, he said, noting concern that the parking lot, which could be shared with the possible train station, would be more of a hazard for children and others visiting the library.

Construction on a new library could begin in July 2011 on the Causeway site and take about a year and a half, with completion between August 2012 and March 2013, according to PGAL Architects’ anticipated schedule.

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