Lombard library moving ahead with building project

A plan to replace Lombard's downtown library is moving forward without the blessing of the park district, which owns neighboring Lilacia Park.

Voters in November 2016 supported a property tax increase after Helen M. Plum Memorial Library officials promised to tear down the existing facility at 110 W. Maple St. and construct a new one.

But the project stalled when the library sought the park district's permission to build more than one story on land that once was part of Lilacia Park. The park district had given the library land for previous expansions but retained the air rights above that property.

Facing pressure to get something done more than a year after residents approved the tax increase, library officials now say they're moving ahead with a plan that doesn't encroach on the park's air rights. Instead, it calls for constructing a facility with two linked pavilions.

"We've been getting a lot of feedback from the community that they're becoming impatient," said Sue Wilsey, library communications manager. "So the board felt that instead of continuously getting these delays by trying to get some agreement with the park district, it would be best to just go off and build something that we know complies with the air rights."

The plan would cost more than the original $22.3 million target price, although exactly how much more hasn't been determined.

Library officials said the design process can start immediately and a formal application for the project is expected to be submitted to the village in the spring.

Park Director Paul Friedrichs said he had no reaction to the library's decision to proceed without an agreement with the park district. Both sides tried to negotiate for more than a year without success.

Friedrichs said the park district made an offer that would have given the library air rights and land. The only catch is the library might have needed a setback variance from the village because the building would have been closer to Maple Street and Park Avenue.

Library board members rejected that offer last month.

"They didn't want to take the time to go to look at a potential variance, if they even needed it," Friedrichs said. "It was a little disappointing that they didn't even try to do that before they just rejected the proposal."

Wilsey said the library board didn't want any more delays.

Board members and library staff members are meeting regularly with architects and construction managers to develop a final schematic design for the new building. The library is planning to host meetings in the spring so residents can get a preview of the design and provide feedback.

Under the most recent proposal, Wilsey said, the library's west pavilion would be two floors and have a space for teens and a large meeting room. It also would have a drive-through window.

The east pavilion would feature two floors on land the library entirely owns, but just one floor on land where the park district has air rights. An existing plaza deck would be rebuilt.

Wilsey said the combined pavilions are expected to offer about 50,000 square feet of space.

Plans call for an enclosed walkway to be built between the two pavilions.

If the village approves the project, the west pavilion would be built first. Once it's complete, the staff and materials would be relocated there until the existing library is demolished and rebuilt.

Library officials said the plan would eliminate the need to modify and lease an interim location.

Lombard Park District officials offered to give air rights and land to the Helen M. Plum Memorial Library for a planned reconstruction project. In return, they wanted the new building to be farther away from the coach house in neighboring Lilacia Park. Library officials rejected the proposal. Daily Herald file photo
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