NEW PORT RICHEY — The city is considering spending $2 million on library renovations, but financing is still being considered.
For city officials, the library’s renovations are overdue. The last time major changes were made to the library was when Ronald Reagan was president and Michael Keaton played Batman.
As a result, the library, which was named the Florida Library Association’s Library of the Year in 2006, is now beyond a need for repairs. It looks dated too, say the city’s leaders.
“It definitely looks Eighties,” said Mayor Rob Marlowe on Friday, speaking to the Suncoast News. “It's time to look at it and do some significant upgrading.”
The City Council got a look at some proposals from Williams Architects of Chicago at its Oct. 2 meeting. The proposals include refurbishments to the outdoor areas, a new cafe area, and a use of open spaces on the underutilized second floor.
Marlowe said while it’s been reported that the city is looking at a “café” for the library, the space envisioned is for vending machines and a coffeemaker. It would be a “food-friendly” area where people can read the papers, he said, adding the area would take over space now occupied by the library’s public-use computers.
A major improvement, Marlowe said, would be to add the children’s area to the second floor, which has wide hallways and open, unused spaces.
The city would also like to tamp down on the noise caused by the “sound funnel” created by stairs leading to the second floor. The area would be enclosed, muffling the sound and opening more space for use.
On the Main Street side, an atrium could be built.
“The renderings were very, very impressive,” said Marlowe.
In total, the renovations could cost as much as $2 million. Marlowe said the city could investigate grants but also raise some of the money from its capital improvement budget.
Glancing through photos taken by the Williams firm, the library looks old and dated, bookish but unkempt.
The firm also said moving the children and youth services upstairs makes sense.
“Bringing a medium-sized program room and a quiet reading room to the lower level of the building will enhance the accessibility of the building by bringing many popular adult features to the main level,” reads the report from Williams Architects.
The report also found the children’s rooms are scattered, making them difficult to supervise. The library has also had to “weed through” collections to make space for seating.
If the City Council moves forward, the project could be phased in and completed in late 2019 or sometime in 2020, according to the council agenda from Oct. 2.
The city library was opened in 1920, according to Jeff Miller, who runs the “History of Pasco County” website. The building at the corner of Main and Madison streets it now occupies was formerly City Hall and at one time the home of Gulf High School.