Library add-on in plan

Board to present expansion proposal tonight

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The East Routt Library Board has plans to enlarge the cramped Bud Werner Memorial Library with a two-story, 20,000 square-foot addition.

The proposal comes after more than two years of work from the library board, which looked at the needs of the library and the constraints of the site at 13th Street and Lincoln Avenue.

The library board had decided to keep the existing library in place for staff and community meeting rooms and to build an addition to house the book collection, computer areas and reading and study space. To build the addition, the Steamboat Springs Community Center would have to be removed from the site.

Many of the external factors -- the existing library and community center, parking areas, nearby Soda Creek and Little Toots Park -- determined where the expansion would go, said Barry Petit, the library's architect based in Minneapolis.

"In some ways, it is surprising the plan worked as well as it did," he said.

The library board is presenting a pre-application plan to the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission tonight. The presentation will give the Planning Commission a chance to provide feedback about the project, but the commission won't take a formal vote.

Library Board President Tom Hopp said the board intends to work through the planning process this summer. Board members hope to ask voters in November to approve a bond to finance the building of the library addition.

The proposal is much different than the one brought before the city in fall 2002, which proposed a 24,000-square-foot freestanding building where the community center stands today. The first plan would have moved the community center's activities into the existing library building and would have moved the entire library into the new building.

It also called for underground parking in the new building.

After receiving city feedback about the proposal, the library formed a committee with a wide range of community members to evaluate the future needs of the library. From the group's recommendations, a site-planning committee was formed to develop building plans.

The major change from the old plan was an expansion to the existing building rather than a new building. The existing library was built in 1967 as a memorial to Bud Werner, and when it was designed, it was not intended to be a library, library director Chris Painter said.

"We are using the existing building for a library rather than other community purposes, which preserves the old library in terms of use and some of the heritage that comes along with it," Hopp said.

One of the focuses in expanding the library was to take advantage of the beauty in the nearby Soda Creek and Little Toots Park. The building plans show the main entrance of the library close to where the community center is today.

On the lower level of the triangular-shaped addition would be new books and children's and teens' sections. On the upper level would be reference books, periodicals and nonfiction books.

The intent is to create the lower floor as an active space and the upper floor as a reflective, quiet and passive space, Painter said.

The second floor will have reading areas next to the glass wall that will look out on the Yampa River and Howelsen Hill.

A much-discussed issue with the site is the community center, which senior citizens heavily use. The library board worked with the Routt County Council on Aging and city representatives to decide where to relocate the center. One proposal is to move the community center to the Stock Bridge Transit Center, where land is available and accessibility for senior citizens would be easier.

"We had a lot of discussions with them. They are supportive of the idea," Hopp said.

Because the library building would not be used for other functions, the project requires less parking and opens up more land for green space than the 2002 plan, Hopp said. The plan proposes to add spaces to the parking lot across 13th Street.

The board looked at creating a building that would be used by various community organizations, but it determined that a multi-use building was not feasible. However, a key component to the expansion is having nooks and other rooms where two to 20 people could meet.

Painter said that there is a real need for meeting space in the community and that the library board hopes to help ease that demand. The idea stems from the early days of the Steamboat library, when it was housed in the community center.

"Library and community gathering places have been synonymous since Mrs. James Crawford created the first library in the 1800s," Painter said.

The library has been working with Petit for five years, Painter said. In the process, board members have had to deal with obstacles, including parking, relocation of the community center and the threat of putting a road through the site connecting Yampa Street to 13th Street.

"If you tackle one thing at a time, they are manageable," Hopp said. "If you look at the whole picture, it looks like a pretty huge challenge, but we moved through the process in a number of years."

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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