On Aug. 8, construction officially began on Carrboro’s 203 Project, a multipurpose structure at 203 S. Greensboro St. The structure will house a new Orange County Southern Branch Library and various local organizations.
While the Town of Carrboro held a groundbreaking ceremony on May 5 at the site, work did not begin until this month.
In an email, Orange County Public Library Communications Manager Libby Hough said the Southern Branch Library will hold a diverse collection of books alongside meeting and program spaces for the community.
Carrboro resident and UNC-Greensboro graduate student Melody Kramer said she is excited about the project because of how accessible its resources will be to the surrounding community.
“I am really excited that it will be really accessible – and people in Carrboro will be able to bike, walk or get to it rather easily,” she said. “To have a space where people can go and be welcome, no matter who or what they are is just lovely to have.”
Currently, the Chapel Hill Public Library is the closest large public library to Carrboro. The location may be more difficult for Carrboro residents who might rely on public transportation for access, Kramer said.
“If you’re relying on public transportation, the buses don’t go in front of the library, they go to Franklin Street,” she said. “And then you have to walk up a hill for a few blocks which is challenging, I think, for people.”
The Friends of the Southern Branch Library, an organization that aims to provide resources to library and literacy services in Carrboro, has advocated for a freestanding library to serve residents for the last 35 years, according to their website.
Along with the library space, the building at 203 S. Greensboro St. will house community resources like the Orange County Skills Development Center, the Virtual Justice Center, the Carrboro Recreation, Parks & Cultural Resources Department and WCOM Radio.
The site, which was previously a municipal parking lot across from Open Eye Cafe, will also feature 171 parking spaces within the building’s deck — 71 spaces more than the old lot’s capacity.
There will also be about 70 parking spots for bikes at the location.
“It's not just a library, but it's going to be what's been described as a hub for a shared culture of learning and leisure,” Catherine Lazorko, the communication and engagement director for the project, said. “It’s integrating a lot of different public resources.”
The total cost for the 203 Project is just over $41 million dollars — about $16 million dollars more than the original cost estimate in February 2020.
According to Jon Hartman-Brown, the economic development director for the Town, this comes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which caused labor shortages in addition to many other things. This shortage led to increased prices in construction materials like steel and concrete.
Orange County and the Town of Carrboro are jointly funding the project, with $18.9 million coming from the Town and $22.2 million from Orange County. Both entities, according to the project website, are using debt financing to cover the majority of project costs.
Hartman-Brown said that the project will create around 26 permanent jobs and between 300 to 350 temporary positions through the building’s construction.
He also said the project is expected to have significant financial benefits for the Town as people come to spend more time and money in the area.
“The consultant that we hired to do the economic impact study estimated that we would see a total output — just kind of the total amount of money that's impacting the economy — of around $37 million,” Hartman-Brown said.
The 203 Project is scheduled to be completed in spring 2024, according to a press release from the Town.
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