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updated: 1/25/2014 10:00 AM

Geneva library to appraise Sixth St. site for new building

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  • The Geneva Public Library in downtown Geneva. Library officials are again talking about building a new, larger library at the site of the former Sixth Street School, also in downtown.

       The Geneva Public Library in downtown Geneva. Library officials are again talking about building a new, larger library at the site of the former Sixth Street School, also in downtown.
    LAURA STOECKER | Staff Photographer, 2008

  • The Geneva Library voted this week to get a fresh appraisal of the Sixth Street School site, which Kane County owns, as a potential site for a new library.

       The Geneva Library voted this week to get a fresh appraisal of the Sixth Street School site, which Kane County owns, as a potential site for a new library.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

The former Sixth Street School site is still in play as a place to build a new Geneva Public Library, with the library board voting to have the site appraised.

But a library planning consultant is saying the best way to plan a new library is to have a building program: Determine what residents want and need, figure out how much space is need to accomplish that and then decide whether a new building is needed.

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That's the time to pick a site, according to Michael Mackey of Dewberry, a firm that designs libraries.

The new interim director of the library, Marilyn Boria, agreed. She oversaw a campaign to get a new library in Elmhurst a decade ago, when she was that library's director.

"You can't answer any question (from the public) if you don't have a building program," Boria said. "That is the basis of everything."

Trustee Bob Shiffler mentioned another possible site, the former Geneva Greenhouse property on Western Avenue. The vacant 6.5-acre site is closer to the center of the district. The Sixth Street site is 2 acres.

"I think Sixth Street is marginal at best," he said.

A design done several years ago proposed putting library parking underground. People have long complained about parking near the current library, which does not have a parking lot.

"I think we will have a much harder time selling a new library (to voters) if we have to go out of the downtown area," Trustee Pat Lord said. She pushed for getting the Sixth Street site appraised now, fearing that the county may pressure the library to make a decision. She said the library may not have the luxury of time to go through a building program like Mackey described. The library has a right of first refusal, which was negotiated when it sold the school to the county in 1982. In 2003, the land and building were valued at a little more than $1 million.

Trustees Steven Andersson and Travis Ketterman favored postponing an appraisal.

"I don't see the county having a buyer, and I don't want to rush it (the planning)," Andersson said.

He suggested delaying an appraisal until the county actually has a buyer for the land.

Shiffler said that people may be willing to consider a library outside of downtown if they know what amenities a library on a larger site could offer.

Shiffler noted that the geographic and residential center of the library district was Randall Road when it surveyed residents in 2003 about whether and where to build a new library. Board President Esther Steel confirmed that and said a new study would probably show even more residents now on the western side of the district. Survey respondents favored a downtown location and disagreed with building along Randall Road.

City officials value having the library downtown, as its patrons visit businesses.

Sixth Street is back on the table because the library backed out of a plan late last year to buy the former Cetron factory near Seventh and Richard streets, displeased with the results of an environmental hazards assessment.

The library has been putting aside money for the purchase of a site, but would likely have to ask voters for permission to raise taxes to build.

The board decided to meet again with Mackey in February to discuss a planning process.

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