March 27th, 2012
The corner of Washington and Market Streets in Petersburg is currently a crumbling and empty parking lot, but soon, work will begin to transform it into a structure that will “help the entire community be a better community.”
That’s according to Bob Walker, chairman of the Petersburg Library Foundation. He said the plans for the new facility have been almost ten years in the making and are nearing fruition.
At the end of February, the Petersburg City Council voted to approve $5 million in general obligation bond funding from the city.
The gap between that and the $10.6 million price tag for the main portion of the library will be partially filled in with a construction loan of approximately $2 million and a new market allocation of between $2 and $2.3 million.
In November of 2011, the Richmond-based Cabell Foundation contributed a $300,000 dollar-for-dollar matching grant to the effort. The Libarary Foundation is currently $50,836 away from matching that grant, something they hope to do in the next 30 days. Their goal is to raise $401,807, including the $50,836, to break ground.
The leaders of the Petersburg Library Foundation are optimistic about their fund raising and determined to start the project this spring.
“We’re enthusiastic about it,” Walker said. “We plan on starting April 30, even if it means Wayne [Crocker] and I have to start digging it ourselves.”
Crocker serves as the director of library services for Petersburg, The Petersburg Library Foundation formed in 2002, secured its 501(c)(3) status in 2003, and launched a study in 2007 to see what was needed to improve the library. The study indicated building a new facility would be more efficient and cost effective than updating the current facility, which was established in 1924 in a Sycamore Street house that was built in 1859.
When it is complete, the new building, designed by local architecture firm Enteros Designs, will be Petersburg’s first energy efficient LEED certified structure. The foundation is hoping to finalize construction plans with W.M. Jordan, who is the same team behind the Hopewell Library, within the next two weeks.
Due to difficult economic times that have coincided with the push for the new library, the foundation has broken construction into two phases. The first phase will include the main library building, which will feature an expanded children’s area, meeting rooms, and other improvements.
“It’s really hard to put 21st century services in a 19th century facility,” said Crocker, describing the difficulties associated with running the current library. “We’ve made do with what we have, but it’s very, very difficult.”
The new 46,000 square-foot space will allow the library to offer enhanced opportunities for workforce development efforts, which have garnered support from Bank of America and the Crater Regional Workforce Investment Board, adult literacy classes and a variety of programs, many of which are aimed at youth throughout the area, not just in Petersburg.
“One of the things Wayne has done over the years is provided some really remarkable programs for 200 to 300 kids at a time,” Walker said. “At the present location, he doesn’t have that kind of facility available.”
Building an auditorium where large groups can gather will be phase two of the construction, which comes with a price tag of $2.5 million.
For the last few years, Crocker has been going to churches and other large spaces in the area to offer a variety of educational programs, which have been popular.
“We’ll be able to provide programs that we can’t presently do,” Walker said. “Additional funding is available for that, but we just don’t have any place to put it.”
Walker said a problem with the current set-up is that children and their parents don’t always realize the programs they have seen and enjoyed are offered by the library, which means that an opportunity to connect the library with positive associations is missed.
“It’s really critical to get kids to come to the library … so they learn to enjoy to come to the library,” Walker said. “That’s been difficult for a number of years, and once that young three-, four-, five-year- old child starts realizing, ‘Hey, it’s fun to come here,’ they have a tendency to come more often. So, having a facility that does that is a major accomplishment.”
Crocker said introducing children to libraries and reading at a young age can influence the course of their lives.
“We strongly believe that if you can get them started as soon as possible coming to the library that, more than likely, they will become life long learners,” he said.
The plans for the library have strong community support. Cheryl Collins, fund development officer for the Petersburg Library Foundation, said the list of donors has expanded from 24 people three years ago to 718 people today. Faith-based organizations and civic groups have also contributed as well as spare-change collection programs at schools, hospitals, and businesses which have brought in needed funds too.
“It’s been a great effort from the community to be a part of it,” Walker said.
Collins said she sees other benefits for the city from the construction.
“I think one of the things that is important too, is this library is going to create a lot of foot traffic for all of the economic development in this area and be able to support the overall vision of downtown Petersburg,” she said.
Although they’re still looking for more donations to meet the April 30 groundbreaking date, people are eager to see ground moving on the downtown corner.
“You hear from everybody” Walker said. “Wayne gets inundated with questions, ‘When are we going to get started?’ We’re going to get started, and we’re really excited about that.”
Colling said she started calling donors to thank them for their support and everyone was “just ecstatic” to hear that their donations were about to be put to use
“I think everybody in the city is ready to make this thing happen,” Walker said.
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Mar 26, 2012, 14:08
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