ST. CHARLES – Aldermen have given St. Charles library officials the green light to proceed with a $18.6 million project to expand the library.
At Tuesday's St. Charles City Council meeting, aldermen unanimously voted to approve the plans, which include a two-story, 2,840 square-foot addition at the building's southeast corner and a one-story, 3,225 square-foot addition on the building's north side along Main Street.
Plans were revised after the City Council's Planning and Development Committee recommended the plans be approved with four conditions. Those conditions included preserving existing trees at the north end of the site as much as possible and to provide an ADA accessible sidewalk along Illinois Avenue on the southeast portion of the property near the detention area.
The other conditions included making the St. Mark’s Illinois Avenue access right-out only and moving the sidewalk along Main Street adjacent to the northern building addition to the south as much as possible for pedestrian safety while preserving the landscaping shown on the plan.
Work on the project is set to start in the spring, with construction expected to take 14 or 15 months. The original Carnegie Library building at the corner of Main Street and 5th Avenue was built in 1908. The building was last expanded in 1988 with a two-story addition.
According to library officials, the original Carnegie building will be incorporated into the everyday life of the library through the addition of study rooms and a quiet reading and research area. An outdoor patio seating area will be added at the site of the current entrance on the southeast corner of the building overlooking the terraced garden.
Plans also call for the construction of a new entrance on the east facade of the library building to add access to all levels through a new elevator, increase the library's visibility on Main Street and increase parking efficiency. A reconfigured and expanded parking lot also is part of the project along with a drive-up window on the south side of the building.
The project is already 73% funded through the $13.6 million the library holds in its special reserve funds, which are set aside for upkeep and renovation projects as needed. In April, board trustees approved selling bonds to fund the remaining $5 million of the project.
While the project is underway, the library will lease space in the now-closed Haines Middle School. St. Charles Public Library Director Edith Craig has said the taxpayers will benefit in "multiple" ways.
"The cost of staying at the library while we are under construction is probably in the hundreds of thousands [of dollars]," Craig has said. "It would extend our construction project by at least six months. And that's assuming we don't find any hidden asbestos or any surprises in a 100-year-old building. Also, by us using this building, we won't have patrons going through major construction zones."