Winter Park researches renovating, relocating library

The new library could displace City Hall if one of four proposals is approved by the city.

The new library could displace City Hall if one of four proposals is approved by the city.

Tim Freed

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Winter Park might be forced to use the wrecking ball in order to make room for a high tech new library. And it could end up in Central Park.

Discussions of a new Winter Park Public Library continued to take shape on Monday as the City Commission sat down with library representatives in a public work session, discussing four possible locations for constructing a new facility.

The Winter Park Public Library asked for the City Commission’s support in either constructing a new building or remodeling the existing library, which currently suffers from lack of space, a shortage in parking and outdated electrical wiring, said WPPL Executive Director Shawn Shaffer.

Four potential sites were brought forward to the City Commission for constructing a new facility: city hall, the civic center in Martin Luther King Jr. Park, the post office on the north edge of Central Park, and the Progress Energy property along Orange Avenue.

Shaffer, consultants and members of the board of trustees each made their case for why the library should be given new life.

“A world-class city deserves a world-class library,” said Clyde Scoles, fiscal officer of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and a building consultant speaking on behalf of the Winter Park Library. “We’ve seen more library construction in the past 20 years than probably the era of Carnegie.”

“The public library is no longer simply a building that houses books, it’s a place that community blossoms.”

One possible site plan would keep the majority of city hall minus the police wing while adding a three-story, 60,000-square-foot library, along with a 60- to 160-car parking garage, said ACi Architects Inc. partner John Cunningham, who presented the locations.

Cunningham suggested for the civic center location to tear down the existing building and start anew, making way for a three-story library with an expanded parking lot.

“[These are] just opportunities and thoughts, but I wanted to let you know it’s doable,” Cunningham said.

The cost for building a new location remains a moving target, but renovating the current library built in 1979 would cost between $5 million and $6 million, not including any additional parking or a temporary space to occupy for eight to 12 months in the meantime.

Shaffer said the library hopes to move toward the digital age as well, having recently applied for federal grant money to receive a new Makerspace — a collection of cutting edge technology that includes recording equipment, video editing software and a 3D printer.

“We’ll still be the traditional warehouse of information,” Shaffer told the Observer in April. “We want to move into an era where we start to help you create information.”

Winter Park City Commissioners showed support for pursuing a new library, hoping to make sure it’s done right.

“I think the library is one of the things that defines a community,” Commissioner Tom McMacken said. “Much like our museums, our churches and our people here, a library should speak for Winter Park.”

“This ought to be a place where people say – and wear the buttons saying – ‘Yes, I’ve been to the Winter Park Library.’”

Mayor Ken Bradley said the concept of a new library intrigued him, but more support needs to come from the community first. Many Winter Park residents still might not feel it’s needed, he said.

“The argument for the new library needs to be much more definitive,” Bradley said.

“We need to build a 100-year building. We don’t need to be in the mode of ‘Well, let’s just change it.’”

The Commission agreed to start forming a library committee of stakeholders and residents to begin reviewing all the potential options in the coming months.