Officials yet to decide fate of old Lombard library property

Lombard's long wait for a state-of-the-art library is nearly over.

Officials announced last week that the current Helen M. Plum Memorial Library is closing on March 8 so books and other materials can be packed up and moved to a newly constructed building at 411 S. Main St.

The new two-story structure is an impressive upgrade.

Senior writer Katlyn Smith pointed out in a story Thursday that the Main Street building is more spacious than the existing library at 110 W. Maple St. It will include an auditorium, study rooms, a computer lab and a space for teens.

But while Lombard residents now know what to expect with the new location, it remains unclear what will happen with the old library property. Helen Plum officials say the issue is "complicated" even though the Lombard Park District previously expressed an interest in the land because it is next to historic Lilacia Park.

In fact, the park district already owns the "air rights" above part of the library property. That's one of the reasons it took so long for Lombard to get a new library building.

Lombard voters in November 2016 supported a property tax increase so Helen Plum officials could tear down the existing library and replace it with a 50,000-square-foot building. However, that project faced repeated delays. Library officials tried to create a plan for the Maple Street site that could pass muster with the park district. But park commissioners were concerned that a taller building would diminish the beauty of Lilacia Park and deprive some of its flowers of sunlight. The park has been the crown jewel of Lombard since Col. William R. Plum donated the 8.5-acre horticultural display to the village when he died in 1927.

The park district also sought to safeguard a coach house built originally as a part of the Plum estate.

The library board pursued talks with the park district for more than three years. But all the negotiations failed, and the library eventually had to buy a former supermarket site near downtown.

Smith reported that the final $27.7 million budget approved for the building project includes $560,000 to demolish a structure as old as the Maple Street library.

Still, park board President Dave Lemar told Smith, "We're just kind of in a holding pattern for now until the two entities can come to terms and figure out exactly what's going to happen with the old facility.

"If we are going to take over that property, we'll have to come up with some plans for it," Lemar added, "but as of right now, we're just kind of in a holding pattern."

Let's hope that holding pattern won't transform into another long wait to decide the fate of the old library building. Despite past disagreements, we encourage the library and park district to work together and try to reach a deal. After all, they both serve the same taxpayers.

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