Library expansion at top of Fayetteville Council agenda

In Home, Politics by arkansasprogressive

The Fayetteville City Council will talk about some super boring things (buying vehicles and tearing down old fences) and some super interesting things (expanding the Fayetteville Public Library and prepping for NWA Fashion Week) at its meeting starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. If you’d prefer to watch the excitement from your living room, you can live stream it on Fayetteville Public Television or on the city’s website. We’ll skip the boring stuff and preview the fun topics below.

Library expansion

Odds are, if you live in Washington County, you’ve visited the Fayetteville Public Library, aka Blair Library. You may even know that it’s received a bookshelf full of awards for its LEED Silver design and are proud Fayetteville is home to one of the top-ranked libraries in the country. The Fayetteville populace showed its love for the library by voting last year to approve two millage increases – one to expand the library and another to provide for its ongoing maintenance.

The City Council will vote Tuesday to appropriate $26,905,000 from the sale of bonds related to the expansion. What’s cool is that when the city put the bonds out for sale, they only really expected to get about $25.9 million. But an interest rate hike two days after the bonds were issued means the library has an extra million to help with expansion costs. I’m imagining all sorts of Jetsons-y things the library can do with that money.

Once the Council approves the appropriation, the Fayetteville Public Library Board of Trustees can move forward with formally hiring an architect and construction manager. Those roles have both been filled – Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle (MSR) of Minneapolis as the architect and Crossland Construction as the construction manager – but the City Council has to sign off on them before it’s official. Fun fact: The team of MSR and Crossland Construction built the current Blair Library facility.

Want some background on this project? The Fayetteville Public Library Board of Trustees oversaw a 2030 Master Plan that identified space needs for the next decade or so. The consulting firm (MSR) recommended an 80,000-square foot expansion that will include:

  • a doubled-in-size youth services department
  •  700-800 person auditorium
  • new teen area
  • digital and robotics makers space (!)
  • genealogy, state and local history research center
  • small business center
  • additional space for traditional print and media materials

The library purchased the former City Hospital property just south of its current facility earlier this month after protracted legal shuffling with the family who owned the property over a century ago. The case was decided in the library’s favor by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Residents will have plenty of opportunities to shape the design of the building through public input sessions, said David Johnson, executive director of the Fayetteville Public Library. For perspective, the design of the Blair Library included 36 public input sessions.

“We want the community to feel like their voices are being heard,” Mr. Johnson said. “After all, it’s their building.”

Total construction cost is estimated at around $50 million, leaving the library to raise another $23 million to complete the project.

What’s next? Mr. Johnson said the library will likely announce dates and next steps in September, once the architects, construction management and library team has had time to have meaningful discussions. The bond issue document estimates commencement of construction in the second quarter of 2018, with completion in the second quarter of 2022.

NWA Fashion Week

Drake Field will get a lot more fashionable if the City Council approves a proposed short-term lease with NWA Fashion Week. The region’s premiere fashion event would host a fashion show in a corporate hangar at the airport, with a $1,000 lease effective Nov. 7-11.

Oil Change changes

City codes seem pretty boring, but they’re really not. They govern so much about the world around you – including where you can get an oil change. The City Council will consider allowing oil change businesses for cars, vans and light trucks to be located in the same types of zoning areas that allow gas stations and drive-thru restaurants. The Planning Commission recently reviewed and denied a conditional use permit from a quick-lube business on Martin Luther King Boulevard. One wonders if the proposed change is related?

Bigger taxiway at Drake

The City Council will discuss widening Taxiway B at Drake Field to allow Boeing 737 and Boeing 757 airplanes to more safely taxi from the terminal to the runway. Garver Engineers would design and bid the project for a $98,000 fee. The city anticipates reimbursement from an FAA grant for the project.