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The city is fixing up a dilapidated old library building in Logan Heights with the help of state funds, but it’s still unclear how the building will be used when that’s done.
The old library is not historic, but it is an integral part of the community. Ask any lifelong resident, and they will share stories about visiting the library as kids. It’s located just down the block from the neighborhood’s newer two-story library on South 28th Street.
Residents have been outspoken about what they’d like to see – and not see. Community organizations are already circling public meetings to pitch their visions.
But as conversations continue, there are questions to consider: What is feasible, how much will it cost and who will have the money to do it?
Big Dreams for a Small Space
Results from a city survey show that the top choices for the library selected by residents were a youth center, a museum and a study room equipped with computers and smartboards.
But big dreams for the library will be limited to its actual size.
The 2,960-square-foot building doesn’t have walls that divide the space into rooms, besides restrooms and electrical and janitorial closets. It also doesn’t have onsite parking.
On a recent afternoon, I found its windows boarded up, the rails along the stairs rusted and the blue tarps once covering the roof torn apart and flying in the wind. Its condition is completely at odds with what is “a symbol of love, strength” for the community, as one organization put it.
A resident at a recent meeting expressed concerns over the size of the space, asking if a youth center, for example, would even fit. Another brought up that while all the visions were great, residents and the city need to consider coming up with an option that ensures the space will be open for years to come. That means having the right partner, community buy-in and money.
That was seconded by another voice, who cautioned people about an open space in the neighborhood that was transformed into a pocket park of sorts, known as the Gilliam Family Community Space and Garden, but slowly deteriorated because it wasn’t sustainable.
It’s still an empty lot today.
$2.4 Million to Start
State Sen. Ben Hueso secured $2.4 million to renovate the building. This money is earmarked for the shell of the building alone. That means fixing and upgrading electrical work, plumbing, roofing, windows and adding accessibility design features.
A cost breakdown of all that isn’t available just yet, according to a city spokesman, given that the rehabilitation design is still being developed.
That’s not all that’s TBD.
“The details for who would be responsible for the inside buildout of the library will be determined depending on the future use of the building,” wrote city spokesman Tyler Becker. “For example, if the future use is determined to be an extension to the library, then the library department will be responsible for the buildout and funding.”
Meaning if an organization or nonprofit is selected to utilize the space, they would need to have the funding to build out the inside. Or find funding if they don’t have it already. That cost estimate isn’t available yet.
It’s worth noting: This isn’t the first old library the city has tried to fix up.
The old downtown library has been stuck in a loop for years of officials asking what can be done with it, groups offering ideas, yet none of them working for one reason or another. There’s a special webpage for the project where Logan Heights residents can find more information.