Expansion in the works

Library board looking to build new facility at current location

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— For more than a year, the East Routt Library District board has been looking and talking about ways to expand the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

This fall, the library has decided on a plan that would build a 24,000-square-foot building on the land where the community center and Lockhart Auction and Realty Co. stand today and move the community center's programs into the current library.

The plans the library has before the Steamboat Springs Planning Department show for a three-story building with one level of underground parking and two levels for library services. The building would face Soda Creek and plans are to use the creek in creating a peaceful outdoor setting next to the library.

Library director Chris Painter said the project is expected to cost between $5 million and $10 million and a bond would be issued to pay for it. The library district encompasses the same area as the Steamboat Springs Area School District and collects its own property taxes.

The library leases the current building from the city for a very small fee and the city owns the majority of the 2-acre block that is border by 13th street, Lincoln Avenue and the Yampa River.

The library has plans to purchase the .234 acres owned by Cookie Lockhart. And Painter said it has not been decided what will become of the building housing the Yampa Valley Land Trust, which sits at the opposite corner of the block at 12th Street and Lincoln Avenue. Plans are to demolish the 3,000-square-foot community center and the building housing Lockhart Auction and Realty Co.

On Nov. 5, the board will meet with the City Council and the city Planning Commission to present its conceptual plans for expansion.

"At this point in time, if the city planning department, city Planning Commission and City Council feel it is inappropriate to place a building of that size on this block, then this will not be a viable alternative," Painter said. "However, if they perceive the new building on this block as compatible to the goals and vision of downtown, then we will actively pursue acquiring (the Lockhart property)."

Painter said the original Bud Werner Memorial Library opened in 1967. The building was 3,000 square feet and served a town of about 2,000. By the mid-1980s, both the town and library had doubled in size. In 1986, the library expanded to 9,500 square feet, where it stands today.

But Painter said the building could not support another expansion and more room is needed. The library has more than 15,000 memberships, more than the entire population of Steamboat Springs.

Today, the library also has more than 53,000 books, more than 3,000 videos and 5,000 books on tape. In the past 12 years, the library has gone from one public computer to 13. And computers are one of the library's most highly used resources.

"The community has grown and so has the library collection and services over the last 15 years," Painter said. "It has grown to the point where we are ready to start thinking what the next facility phase would be and are planning for our next expansion to meet the needs of the community for the next 20 to 30 years."

When the library starting looking at expanding, Painter said there was sentiment in the community to keep the public library in the downtown or Old Town area. Painter said the board thought the need for the next 10 to 15 years would be for a building that was 25,000 square feet, but could expand to 30,000 to 35,000 square feet in the next 25 to 30 years.

The board saw the two most viable options as purchasing the Steamboat School District's administration building at Seventh and Oak streets or building a facility where they are currently located.

But expanding the existing building was out of the question.

"All the architectural studies have indicated that if we try to expand the building, there is potential to destroy the original character of the building," Painter said. "The library in the community should be a building that is a source of pride. And not only should it be a great source of pride, but extremely functioning and efficient."

Painter said the open green space adjacent to the school district's administration building would have co-existed nicely with a library building, but the cost of the land was too high.

When the Lockhart property came on the market, Painter said the board went ahead with the idea of expanding the library onto that site.

Utilizing Soda Creek is one goal of the library.

"It is one of the most beautiful creeks but is basically hidden with crumbling walls and brush," Painter said. "Our idea is to make it a focal point and have Little Toots Park become an extension to the library. In a sense, that outdoor space, reading area, place for children and families are an integral part of the public library setting."

After the conceptual plans go through the City Council and Planning Commission, Painter said it would take at least a year to plan the new facility and gather public input.

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