The Town of Carrboro held a groundbreaking ceremony last Thursday at 203 S. Greensboro St., the future home of the Orange County Southern Branch Library.
The Orange County Southern Branch Library, also known as the 203 Project, has been in the works since 2016 when Orange County requested the library branch.
After more than five years, the project budget was approved by both the Orange County Board of Commissioners and the Carrboro Town Council on April 5.
On Thursday, Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils provided welcoming comments and called the groundbreaking event a historic day for Carrboro.
The event featured a dance performance by Takiri Folclor Latino as well as a reading by Carrboro Poet Laureate Fred Joiner. Joiner specifically thanked the Friends of the Carrboro Branch Library for their work on the library and project.
“Thank you to the people who have been working on this project for 30 years or more — the Friends,” Joiner said at the event.
Joiner said the poem he wrote and performed at the event, titled “To The Builders”, was inspired by paintings from artists Jacob Lawrence and Diego Rivera as well as construction workers in Washington, where workers were building expensive homes that they might not be able to afford themselves.
He said he was inspired by the idea that people who build things leave a part of themselves behind within their work.
“Who’s going to be building this place?” he said. “Let’s make sure we do things in this place that honor them.”
Nerys Levy, a member artist at FRANK Gallery and a member of the Friends of the Orange County Public Library’s Southern Branch, said the path to the library has been a long journey.
She explained that it began in 1987, when Carrboro and southwest Orange County were found to be communities underserved by libraries.
For the next 34 years, various library task forces, community officials and residents worked to provide a permanent space for a library to serve southwest Orange County and Carrboro.
“We, the Friends, salute you all and we would not be here today without your collective efforts and your countless hours of dedication to this cause,” Levy said.
Seils said the project wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and collaboration of many different government figures and residents who provided input and vision for the project.
The building will be able to host various services through the integration of different “vital” public resources, such as the Carrboro Recreation, Parks and Cultural Resources Department and WCOM Radio, he said.
Seils also said the building, which will be three stories tall, will be accessible from three Chapel Hill Transit bus routes and include a parking deck, charging stations for electric vehicles and bicycle parking.
“As I’ve said many times before, I’m particularly excited about the role the library and the other programs housed in this building will play in supporting literacy, education, cultural opportunities and a safe space for all people in our community,” Seils said.
Carrboro Town Manager Richard White III said the 203 Project will also be designed for energy efficiency, including vegetative roofing and a state-of-the-art HVAC system.
According to Whole Building Design Guide, vegetative roofing is thin layers of plants installed on top of roofs that have many benefits, including controlling stormwater runoff and conserving energy.
“Energy efficiency and accessibility were important to the design,” White said. “I want to take a moment to thank all the residents who have contributed ideas toward making this a reality.”
He added that there have been more than 20 engagement sessions for the public, held at different times and places to provide broader opportunities for residential participation.
“Once the facility is opened, this spirit of community engagement will continue,” White said.
Orange County Commissioner Renee Price said the library will become a “community oasis” for residents and allow the exploration of different cultures and traditions through the literature it will include.
The facility will also provide opportunities for marginalized and underserved communities with the Skills Development Center, Price said.
“Residents will be able to seek help with literacy and learning and job and career services, all under the same roof,” she said.
Price also noted that libraries are important areas where people can engage, have a safe space and access information – a public right.
“We look forward to the 203 Project opening its doors and serving all who wish to enter,” she said.
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