The future of the Chapel Hill Public Library will be decided tonight, and it likely won’t include a change of address for the local landmark.
The Chapel Hill Town Council will vote on whether to accept a proposal from Madison Marquette to permanently move the library from its 100 Library Drive location to the current location of Dillard’s at University Mall.
ATTEND THE MEETING
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said the town council will likely reject the proposal, which has stirred conflict in the community since it was initially brought up in November.
In an e-mail to town officials, Madison Marquette Managing Director Jay Lask wrote that the savings for the town if the library moved would now be about $1.5 million, compared to an earlier estimate of $3 million to 4 million in savings.
“We need to realize considerably more cost-savings than what is proposed by Madison Marquette,” Kleinschmidt said.
The staff report the council will receive tonight breaks down the costs of both the move and renovation.
The total-costs comparison of the two sites shows that the renovation of the current space would be between $1 million and $5.4 million more expensive than the move to the mall, according to the report.
Sheila Ainbinder, owner of Retail Development Resources and a commercial real estate consultant, said the Dillard’s location would serve the town better as a retail space.
“Why would we bring a place in that wouldn’t bring revenue to the county and not bring people who were thinking about shopping?” she said. “The mall attracts a different kind of customer.”
Council member Penny Rich said if the council votes to keep the library at its current location, it will focus on improving transit access to the location and decreasing traffic issues that could arise once Walgreens opens nearby at the corner of East Franklin Street and South Estes Drive.
Rich added that improving vehicle access both into and out of Library Drive will also be a priority.
“We need to look at the big picture and try alleviating the tensions of car drivers as well as the people who are on the bus,” she said.
Rich said the town council received about 1,000 letters and a petition with 200 names against the proposal to move.
But Kleinschmidt said community opinion was split on the issue.
Chapel Hill resident Laura Wenzel, for example, said she would like to see the library moved out of its original location.
“If you’re elderly or have children with you, walking to the library can be difficult,” she said. “It would be better to have the mall location for walkers or for pedestrians who use the bus.
“I know some people objected to losing the location with the nice trees outside, but when you go to a library you’re not going there to look at trees. You’re going there to look at books.”
Resident Chris Allen usually shops for groceries, electronic appliances and pizza at the mall, and he said he wouldn’t mind getting his library books there, too.
“I thought it was a good idea,” he said. “It’s almost like a recycling act. Let’s recycle the Dillard’s building rather than build something new.”
But Ainbinder said the library’s current location is an asset with which the mall just can’t compete.
“I just didn’t see why we would take the library, which is in a very lovely spot where you feel good when you’re there … and move it into a mall that hasn’t been successful,” she said.
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