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Alderman: Library Expansion Concept Would Enhance Downtown

Bloomington Public Library on Olive Street.

Aldermen are reacting to a multi-phased expansion concept presented this week to the Bloomington Public Library Board of Trustees.

The project could cost anywhere between $28.5 million for just the two-story, 50,000-square-foot library expansion, and an estimated $52 million including other construction on a library campus to the south.

Credit Bloomington Public Library
Bloomington Public Library
One of the conceptual site plans (this is "1A") presented this week for the Bloomington library. "The library board discussed that they are really excited about Option 1A, which really reflects what is primarily in the library's scope," said Library Director Jeanne Hamilton. "The rest of the options are exciting visions for the area but reflect things that are ultimately outside of the scope of the library."

Once the library board looks over the proposal, approval would be up to the Bloomington City Council. Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt said Wednesday she’s supportive of the plan, which was presented Tuesday to the library board.

“I see this as enhancement to the city as a whole and certainly an enhancement to the downtown. And I don’t think that the plan I saw was extravagant in any way,” said Schmidt, whose ward includes the library on Olive Street. “It builds on a very solid and well-built building, and I see it as a positive. So, obviously the devil is always in the details, but in general I’m very supportive of this.”

Ward 7 Alderman Scott Black said cost is always a factor, and while the city has a lot of priorities, the library should be included.

“We cannot let our library decay,” Black said. “We cannot let our library go unattended to, and it’s definitely going to be something that we’re going to take a keen eye on and make some smart decisions.”

Library leaders have been considering and studying expansion for 18 years, saying they’re bursting at the seams in their current space.

Earlier this year, Bloomington aldermen reiterated their preference that the city’s library expand in its current location rather than move to a new home. That came months after the city’s Downtown Task Force recommended exploring a so-called “catalyst” project that would’ve moved the library into the heart of downtown. It would have shared a space with a new Connect Transit transfer center. That plan failed to garner wide support among aldermen or library trustees.

The library board plans to review the phased-expansion concept and present it to the council sometime this fall, with hopes to break ground in the next two years.

Depending on what is included in the final proposal beyond just library expansion, the project could take up to 30 years.

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