By Mary Thurwachter
One way or another, substantial changes are coming for the Lantana Public Library. The town has earmarked $400,000 for upgrades to the building, and architectural plans for those renovations are to be viewed by the Town Council on April 13.
But at the March 9 town meeting, a few other proposals were pitched by a developer hoping to build a hotel on or beside the town-owned library at 205 W. Ocean Ave.
Tony Mauro and his son Michael Mauro, who own the land behind the library (where the old bowling alley once stood) as well as the post office building next to the library, said they wanted to include the town in the vision for their development.
“Michael and I feel we have enough land with the bowling alley property to do something nice, but in all the design we’ve been playing with for over a year, it’s become pretty clear to us that to do something that will withstand the test of time, and make everyone very proud, it would be nice to be able to bring the library into the project,” Tony Mauro said.
“Our No. 1 choice would be to design and develop a hotel,” he said. “The design would be very different if it were just on our portion of land right now, and if the library were included it would change the design totally.”
One of the options the Mauros proposed was for them to purchase the library for a sum to be determined by multiple appraisers. Another option would involve exchanging the library for another parcel in the town and funding the construction of a new building.
A third proposal would be to build a new library at 500 Greynolds Circle to create a more centralized town municipal center, which would allow all of the funds to be utilized for the structure itself.
Council members quickly declined to consider a fourth option, which would be to provide a dedicated and permanent location for the library within a new overall project designed by the developers.
“Our library needs to be not in control of anyone else’s facility,” Mayor Dave Stewart said.
But some of the other proposals would be worth looking at, council members agreed. The Mauros will return with more fleshed-out ideas at the May 11 meeting.
In the meantime, the town will have an opportunity to see plans two Miami architects have put together for the Library Foundation.
Robert Barfknecht, president of the Lantana Library Foundation, asked the council to delay any decision on the Mauro proposals until he had a chance to show them the architectural plans the foundation had sponsored.
“We’re delighted to know that the town has budgeted a significant amount of money to upgrade the library to conform to ADA laws, etc., and we have offered to support architectural drawings and a new concept for this upgrade,” Barfknecht said. “We have dedicated $10,000 of our funds from the foundation to create architectural drawings and plans which will include cost estimates for upgrading the library. We’ll be ready to present these to the council in April and I think you’ll be delighted to see what’s coming along.
“The architects we have working on this are coming up with some very interesting ideas to make it a beautiful building which will include community spaces,” Barfknecht said. “I think you’ll be very pleased and proud that the building can be something really special. It already is special, but it can be much more special.”
“The way I see this, these are just ideas,” Stewart said. “We are getting ready to spend considerable money on the library and before we spend considerable money on the library, I think the question is would the council like to see a new building somewhere else, or would they like to see it as part of whatever project is going to be on the property? And there are all kinds of stipulations.”
For one thing, if the town would choose to sell the library, that would need to be voted on by residents, according to the town charter.
Lantana’s Public Library was founded in 1947 in the former bridge-tender’s house on Ocean Avenue. The town bought the current library building, which is 50 years old, in the early 1990s after the Carteret Savings & Loan failed. It is operated by one full-time employee and a small army of volunteers.