News & Events

Groundbreaking for Petersburg library slated for April

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
Copyright © 2004 – 2012

Construction for new Petersburg library set for next month

PETERSBURG – The Petersburg Library Foundation has announced that it plans to break ground next month for a long-anticipated multimillion-dollar library that is considered a keystone to the downtown’s economic revitalization.
The groundbreaking ceremony will come after years of efforts to raise money for a new Petersburg Public Library. The event is set for April 30.
The proposed building will be slightly reduced in scale from the original design. Bob Walker, chairman of the Petersburg Library Foundation, said work on securing some funds in the form of new market tax credits and a construction loan are still being finalized, but that he expects that will be done soon.
“We wanted to finish the first phase of the library,” Walker said.
Wayne Crocker, director of library services, explained at a Feb. 28 City Council meeting that the original plans were to build the library all at one time. However, it was decided to proceed to build the main library as soon as possible while construction costs are low instead of waiting on the additional funding to include a large multipurpose room or auditorium.
“That will be the second phase, the large multipurpose room,” Walker said. He said even while construction on Phase I – estimated to take 12 to 18 months – is taking place, fundraising will continue for the second phase of construction.
“We’ll still need contributions, but we thought it was very important to go ahead and get started on the library,” Crocker said.
Cheryl Collins, fund development officer for the Petersburg Library Foundation, said that the overall goal of the capital campaign is still at $12.7 million.
Walker explained that once the facilities are built, the mission of the Petersburg Library Foundation will change to raising money for programming at the library.
Ann Taylor, vice chair of the Petersburg Library Foundation, said that she’s very excited about the upcoming groundbreaking. “I know it will be a historic day for the city,” Taylor said.
“We’ve been working towards this for more than four years,” said the Rev. Andrew White, campaign co-chair.
The site of the new library, the former Petersburg Ford and more recently CrossRoads Ford, was purchased for $400,000 in 2006. The site was selected after it became available – six other sites had been considered before the selection of the current site.
Originally conceptualized as a 56,000-square-foot facility with a price tag of around $16 million, fundraising efforts began in earnest after the design was finalized in 2008. Initially plans called for repurposing several of the existing buildings on the property. However, it was decided that for roughly the same price a new library could be constructed from the ground up.
Demolition on the former auto dealership buildings began in September 2009.
The current Phase I facility will be around 45,000 square feet and represents the majority of that initial concept with the exception of the large multipurpose meeting room.
In September 2008, City Council committed to providing $5 million toward construction costs, and at the Feb. 28, 2012, meeting, council kept its word, voting 6-0 – Mayor Brian Moore abstaining as he is a member of the library foundation board – to provide that money in the form of bond money.
White said that with the upcoming groundbreaking he wants to both say “wow and hallelujah.” He explained that the reaction is because of the process of getting to this point.
“It’s been difficult and intriguing,” White said. “It’s been difficult because of the economy and that situation and it’s been intriguing because of the process. This groundbreaking that’s coming indicates that we’re going forward and it’s on it’s way and it’s going to happen.”
White said that he has always firmly believed that if the people of the city wanted a new library it would happen. “Petersburg can do it,” he said.
The new facility will replace the facility at Sycamore and Marshall streets, which consists of a house built in 1859 and a wing added in the 1960s. That site has been the library’s home for more than 85 years.

Groundbreaking Ceremony Set!

Please join us as we break ground for the new Petersburg Public Library on Monday, April 30 at 10:30 a.m. (Rain/Shine)

At 22-24 Market Street (the corner of Washington & Market), Petersburg, VA

The terrain may be rough so please wear appropriate footwear 

For more information call 804.733.2387 x 30 or x 35



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