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Library may move into strip mall



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The Addison Township Public Library could be moving into the Lakeville Towne Square strip mall on Rochester Rd. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
July 14, 2010 - It's by no means a done deal, but a proposed lease agreement is in the works that, if approved, would allow the Addison Township Public Library to move into a strip mall located on Rochester Road.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for the library and for the community," said Library Director Michele Presley. "I think it will highlight and showcase what the library has to offer to the community."

Officials are looking to move the library into the Lakeville Towne Square strip mall, owned by Manny Yasso.

The mall is currently home to the Lakeville Post Office, a law office, a dentist and four vacant spaces.

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Since the early 1980s, the library's been housed in a 1,300-square-foot building, constructed in 1968, that once served as a kindergarten classroom.

This new home could offer the library approximately 4,000 square feet of space for a proposed rent of $1,000 per month plus electrical and gas expenses.

"First and foremost the greatest advantage is the increased space," Presley said. "Just think, you'll have room to turn around and not bump into anybody."

Right now, Presley said the library is "packed to the gills" with materials.

"There's no room for anything anymore," she said.

A professional space planner told her just to "adequately house" the library's current materials would require a third more shelving.

"When you pull things out now, you can hear the books breathe a sigh of relief," Presley said.

With this new space, Presley said "we could finally put all the books on the shelves at one time."

"Everything could be returned to the library that's checked out and we wouldn't have to worry about having to stack them up in corners everywhere," she said. "It gives our collection room to breathe."

Moving into the new home would also give the library space for the three new computers it's due to receive by Dec.1 thanks to a grant. These new computers would be for public use and have internet access.

Right now, Presley said she has no room for them.

"Truly, I don't know where I would put them here. Hang them from the ceiling?" she said.

In addition to more space, the strip mall could offer the library increased visibility and ample parking.

"You're right there on Rochester Road," Presley said. "And we'd have more than two parking places."

Right now, the library is basically tucked away in a corner of the township municipal complex, hidden from view.

If officials and the strip mall owner reach an agreement, don't expect the library to expand its services just because it will have more space to utilize.

"The community needs to realize there won't be increases in services. There's not going to be a new collection of videos or a new music collection," Presley said.

Why?

"Because the budget is the same," she explained. "There's no increase in funding that's associated with moving to this larger space. It will be the same services."

In fact, if the library moves, Presley said "it will be a stretch financially."

One reason is the library will have to add a couple of part-time workers. A larger space requires more employees.

In addition to personnel costs, the new space will cost $320 more per month in rent than what the township charges the library for its current home.

The library would also be responsible for electric and gas bills, which are currently paid by the township.

Despite these increased costs, Presley noted, "It will work."

However, "we'll have to watch our P's and Q's very carefully," she said.

If a lease agreement is approved, the library won't be able to move in right away. The strip mall space, which is actually four individual spaces, will have to renovated to suit the library's needs.

"There's a lot that needs to be done. I've looked at the space," Presley said. "I think it's all just going to have to be gutted, except for the bathrooms, and made into one big, continuous space."

According to the proposed lease terms, the library would have the authorization to remodel the interior and exterior to suit its purposes. This includes moving or removing non-supporting walls, painting, flooring, lighting, electrical, ductwork, plumbing, building fascia, etc.

Presley said the plan would be to have all the necessary renovations performed by volunteers.

Volunteers would also be needed to move materials and furnishings from the old space to the new, she noted.

If all goes well, Presley is hoping to move in by early fall.

In anticipation of obtaining this new space, Presley noted the Addison library has already received 50 double-sided shelving units – approximately 3 feet long and 84 inches tall – free of charge from the Ferndale Public Library, which no longer needed them.

"It won't match what we have, but who cares? The price was right," Presley said. "Had we purchased them new, it would have cost between $25,000 and $30,000."

She indicated this donation makes "this move affordable."

"If we had to buy all that shelving, we wouldn't have been able to do this," Presley said. "It's a real gift to the community."

Just because the library is contemplating moving into the strip mall, doesn't mean its officials or supporters have given up on the idea of someday building a brand new facility on the nearly 4 acres along Rochester Road, between Milmine and Cantley streets in Lakeville, donated for that purpose.

"The library has not abandoned the plan to move into a new building," Presley said. "The ultimate goal is still a new building that will meet the needs of the community for the next 20 years."

However, library officials realized that isn't going to happen at this point due to the slumping economy, decreasing property values and diminishing tax revenues.

"Right now is not the time to be asking people to build a new building. As desperately as we need a new building, it's just not," Presley said. "I just don't think this is the time to go and ask people to increase their taxes."

She indicated library officials are currently working on a five-year plan with an eye toward financing and building a new facility in the future.

"Hopefully, the economy has turned around in five years," Presley said. "If not, we're all going to be in deep doo-doo."

She said officials are looking at possibly scaling back and reconfiguring the preliminary library design from 2003, which called for constructing a 9,000-square-foot facility with a 4,000-square-foot unfinished basement for future expansion.

Back then, the estimated price tag for the new building was $2.9 million.

Although she's excited about it, Presley views the strip mall as a temporary home at best.

"I think we will quickly outgrow that space," she explained. "Typically, when you move to a new facility, the usage increases dramatically."

"If things continue in here as they have been right now – computer usage increasing, increased demand for books and materials – I really do think within five years, you're going to find they're going to need to do something," Presley noted.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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