By Mary Thurwachter
Plans to make better use of space and add a meeting room and outdoor reading garden to the town library won the approval of the Lantana Town Council on May 11.
The proposal, promoted by the Library Foundation and its chairman, Robert Barfknecht, boasts ADA-compliant restrooms, a centralized circulation desk, special spaces for children and teens and a community center for adult activities.
The lead architect for the project, Sam Ferreri of PGAL of Boca Raton, said the 4,000-square-foot library is headquartered in a former bank building with bookshelves breaking up the space. The bank’s old covered drive-thru isn’t being used, he said, but is a perfect location for a meeting room addition and is in close proximity to restrooms. So the meeting room can be used even when the library isn’t open, it will have a separate entrance.
Four parking spaces will be added to the current 14 in the north parking lot, and 25 more spaces are available on the Third Street lot. A few on-street parking spaces are available on Third Street and Ocean Avenue. The library’s main entrance will be from the north parking lot.
“The challenge with libraries is to have flexible space,” said Ferreri, who has designed libraries both large and small. “You’re very lucky to have a building, the bank building, with good bones. It’s very open and very flexible. I think there’s a lot of opportunity here and I’m very excited to be part of this.”
Barfknecht said that among all the architects with whom the foundation worked, six plans were considered. “The one you’re seeing tonight is the one that’s got us all very excited,” he said. “It solves so many problems and it gives us an additional 33% more space for library users. It’s also very children-centric.”
Cost of the project is $748,636, but the town has already put aside $400,000 for the library from Palm Beach County’s 1-cent sales tax distribution. The Library Foundation paid for the design fees and studies and will donate $50,000 for an outdoor reading garden on the south side of the meeting room.
Council members agreed to take the balance needed to complete the project — about $300,000 — from undesignated reserves.
While the renovation plans were well-received and eventually approved, the council delayed a decision until it had a chance to hear from local developer Michael Mauro, who pitched some alternative plans for the library at the same May 11 meeting.
Mauro, who wants to build a 10- to 12-story hotel (the town’s height limit is five stories) on and around the former bowling alley property next to library, is interested in purchasing the current library or exchanging it for another parcel to construct a new building, or building a new library near Town Hall. He said appraisals for the current library ranged from $730,000 to $750,000.
Mayor Dave Stewart wondered if Mauro could totally finance the construction of a new library on Greynolds Circle, near Town Hall. Mauro said he would have to consult with his partners about that.
Vice Mayor Lynn Moorhouse said he favored the Library Foundation’s proposal. He said it could be complete in about a year, while building an entirely new library would take much longer.
The foundation’s plan also drew overwhelming support from residents, many of whom either spoke during the meeting or sent letters.
The library has been at 205 W. Ocean Ave. since the early 1990s after the Carteret Savings & Loan failed. Before that, the library, initially run by the Lantana Women’s Club, was housed in the former bridge-tender’s house on Ocean Avenue since 1947.
Next year Lantana will celebrate its 100th birthday and Barfknecht said it would be a perfect time to mark the occasion with a renovated modern library.
In other business during April and May, the town:
• Agreed to put on a Fourth of July fireworks show on the Intracoastal Waterway off the shores of Bicentennial Park. However, because of the pandemic, no events are planned in the park on that day.
• Set 5:30 p.m. June 8 as the date for the first budget workshop at Town Hall.
• Awarded a $114,762 contract to CH Global Construction to build new public restrooms at Bicentennial Park.
• Approved a $57,350 contract with Baxter Restoration of Boca Raton for the biomediation and rehabilitation of the marine safety building at the beach. Ú