After four years, the Carrboro Town Council has finally approved the 203 Project, a public center that has caused some controversy among local businesses due to construction concerns.
The Carrboro Town Council approved the final design plans for the public center at a Nov. 17 meeting. The center will house the Orange County Southern Branch Library at 203 Greensboro St., which will be the only library in Carrboro that provides robust program offerings and service hours.
This center will also be home to several organizations, such as the community radio station WCOM, the Skills Development Center and Town of Carrboro Recreation.
The site is currently a parking lot, and was identified by the county and the Town as a suitable location for the development.
The Orange County Library already has a presence in Carrboro, but the project is seeking to expand the library’s reach in and offerings to the community. Currently, the library services in the Town consist of the Carrboro Cybrary, which offers computers and technical services, and a library branch at McDougle Middle School, which is only open during non-school hours. This limited availability will not be a problem at the new center.
The library hopes to be able to offer more programming at this larger location, which will include a black box theater for performances and general multipurpose workspaces.
Carrboro Town Council member Sammy Slade was the only vote against the project at the council’s Nov. 17 meeting.
“This is not to say that I don’t support the library,” Slade said at the meeting. “This is about Town offices, the proportion of parking and the costs incurred by the aspects of it that are the Town’s."
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said that the construction and decreased parking spaces are among the main concerns local businesses have about the library. She said construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2021 and will last about a year and a half.
“They're worried about trying to survive,” Lavelle said. “We’ve lost several businesses, and they are worried that the construction might disrupt them just when they get back on their feet.”
She said the Town is taking steps to mitigate these problems, such as making deals with parking spaces in the area owned by private entities to increase parking.
The Friends of the Carrboro Branch Libraries are advocates of this project, and have been pushing for a library in Carrboro for over thirty years. Nerys Levy, the art committee chairperson for the group, said she was proud of the project.
“It came together in probably a project nobody could foresee and it's quite a dazzling project,” Levy said. “If we had to wait this long, it's worth it. We were not given a second best option. We have been given what the Town rightfully deserves and the southern part of Orange County deserves.”
According to Levy, the main obstacle the group encountered over the decades was simply a lack of resources. It was difficult to gather support for large scale public construction projects.
In addition to pushing for a library like the one planned at 203 Greensboro, the Friends have also been supporters of the Cybrary and the McDougle branch library.
“The Friends kept the ball rolling when nobody else thought it was possible,” Levy said.
In the future, they will remain actively involved with the library through its construction and operations.
“Our next role will be helping with the design functions and stocking the library with things we need,” Levy said. “The story is not over, by any means. We’re still doing libraries.”
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