** 6/18/10: The proposal regarding Columbia Pike Branch Library was withdrawn Friday, June 18, in a press release from the County Manager’s office.**
**Town Hall Meeting Venue Update **
To accommodate as many people as possible, the June 16, 7:00 p.m. meeting has been moved to the atrium of the Career Center, which is adjacent to Columbia Pike Branch Library at 816 S. Walter Reed Dr. **
Hello Arlington neighbors,
Below are answers to frequently asked questions we’ve heard since announcing our “Town Hall Meeting” on a possible new Columbia Pike library, to be held Wednesday, June 16, 7 p.m. at the Columbia Pike Branch Library, 816 S. Walter Reed Drive.
Please read the FAQ below. We look forward to next Wednesday evening for the kind of engaging, enlightening and respectful discussion that Arlington is known for.
With all good wishes,
Columbia Pike Branch Library
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
June 10, 2010
1. Why does staff think it is a good idea to move the branch?
Library staff believes a modern, more efficient library will offer better services. The current branch library, opened in June 1975, has many drawbacks in both design and condition. The library collection and functions are spread over two floors, making it inconvenient for patrons and more difficult to staff. The aging building in which it resides would require major reinvestment to bring it up to modern standards, including handicapped accessibility; reinvestment decisions would be made jointly with schools as part of the broader Career Center, and there are no plans for significant reinvestment reflected in the School Board’s recently approved Capital Improvement Plan. It is not located directly on Columbia Pike and has limited accessibility.
2. Why does staff think Arlington Mill is a good site for relocation of the branch?
The new location would be right on Columbia Pike, a key east-west roadway now being revitalized and redeveloped into a more pedestrian and transit-friendly Main Street. In addition, incorporating the branch library into Arlington Mill offers many advantages, such as:
- With no plans to renovate the existing facility in the near future, this represents the best opportunity to bring a new, up-to-date library to more people in the Columbia Pike area
- More user-friendly layout and design of the branch
- Visible library presence on the Pike
- Better transit access, aided by an adjacent new bus Super Stop.
- Ability to share staff for building management/operations, potential to expand service hours and increase access to the collection
- Ability to provide an upgraded library, modeled after the successful new Shirlington and Westover branches (all circulating collections on one floor, self-checkout, integration of space, services and technology), in a more densely populated area.
- No net increase in operating costs, potential for savings
- Availability of materials to all-age users of the gym, fitness center and plaza
- Option to support teen and senior programs at the community center
- Opportunity to collaborate with the on-site Head Start programs
- Ability to share the computer lab with the Community Center
3. How many people live near the current and proposed Pike library sites?
Within a half-mile radius of the Arlington Mill site, an estimated 16,929 persons reside, as compared to 7,606 persons residing within half a mile of the Career Center site.
4. When did the County begin considering the possibility of moving the branch library from the Career Center to Arlington Mill?
After the housing partner for the Arlington Mill site withdrew from the joint venture, the County Board directed County staff in December 2009 to investigate the possibility of adding one or two additional floors to the Arlington Mill Community Center. In April 2010, it was determined that the funding was available to build out two additional floors, creating the opportunity to expand space for the approved uses in the Center. County staff proposed expanding the small library presence (kiosk) in the original Center plan by moving the library at the Career Center site to this location on Columbia Pike.
5. When was the public informed of the proposal?
After ascertaining that Arlington Public Schools was not interested in occupying (and paying for) some of the additional space, it was decided to begin a public discussion process on the proposal to move the Columbia Pike library. Public outreach began in late May.
6. Why does the County want to add two floors to Arlington Mill?
The original Arlington Mill Community Center design had three floors of apartments above the community center. When the housing portion of the approved mixed use development could not be financed, the County Board decided to proceed with the community center separately. The Arlington Mill land is valuable. To maximize its investment in valuable land, the County wants to construct a building with room for improved services to the community. The marginal cost of adding two floors in place of the apartments is relatively low and helps maintain the building design that was approved by the Board as a public anchor facility on the Pike.
7. Will the County add two floors even if the Board ultimately decides not to move the branch library to Arlington Mill?
8. When does staff plan to bring this issue to the Board for a decision?
At an initial meeting with the Arlington Mill Review Steering Committee at the end of May, staff stated a desire to complete the public process so a recommendation could go to the Board in July. We now recognize more time is needed for public input and have adjusted our schedule. Staff will seek broad public comment on the proposal through the summer, and hopes to make a recommendation to the Board in September. At that time, the Board will consider a use permit amendment for the Arlington Mill Community Center. The use permit amendment could be approved without a decision on the library. If the recommendation is to move the branch library to Arlington Mill, staff could incorporate that into the use permit amendment. That timing would allow the design of the community center to proceed on schedule.
9. Why the tight timeline?
The tight timeline is for the Arlington Mill Community Center, not the branch library. County Board has made a commitment to the community to build the long-promised Arlington Mill Community Center, which closed in the summer of 2008, and resume services and programming there. The Board has set the first quarter of 2013 as a target date for opening the new Arlington Mill Community Center, with a new gym and public plaza. To achieve that goal, the project would need to be put out to bid before the end of this year. Putting the project out to bid by the end of this year would likely yield significant cost savings, because construction
costs have declined during the recession.
10. Is this a done deal, or will public input make a difference?
This is not a done deal. We are committed to providing ample time and opportunity for a full community discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of moving the branch library to Arlington Mill. The public’s views on this proposal are important and will be fully considered in the County Board’s decision on this proposal. The Board has made no decision on whether the Columbia Pike Branch Library should be moved. The Board will make a decision only at the conclusion of a full public process that allows all stakeholders ample time to make their views known.
11. What is the County doing to inform the public of this proposal?
The County has invited eleven civic associations along the Pike to a June 10th meeting, informing them of the proposal. There also will be a Town Hall meeting with Director of Libraries Diane Kresh at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16 at the Columbia Pike Branch Library, 816 S. Walter Reed Dr. County staff have met with the Arlington Mill Steering Committee, and plans to meet with the presidents of Columbia Pike civic associations on June 26. In addition, staff has posted information on the Libraries blog and on the County website, has used its social media channels and has reached out to reporters, inviting them to attend the town hall meeting.
12. How can I make my views known?
Public input will be gathered through community meetings, comments to the Library’s website and a resident survey planned for later this summer. In addition, the public can direct comments to the County Manager, and to individual County Board members through email or telephone calls.
13. What is the additional cost of building a branch library at Arlington Mill and where would the money come from?
The cost of outfitting a library at Arlington Mill is estimated at $500,000 to outfit and furnish it ($1.7 million to build a floor will be spent regardless). This does not include additional parking added to the parking garage, which will be added regardless, based on the additional square footage of the structure. The community center total cost is estimated at $34 million. Funding will come from several sources, including the $26 million bond funding from the 2008 referendum, unsold bond funding from the 2006 infrastructure bond and a planned 2011 IDA bond included in the proposed 2010-2016 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
14. Has any alternative site been identified for the Columbia Pike Branch Library?
15. What agreements exist between the County and Arlington Public Schools relating to the Columbia Pike Branch Library?
There is a 1974 Memo of Understanding between the County Board and School Board that agreed that the library has continued use of the building until the County Board releases the space for some other use.
16. Are there plans to redevelop the Career Center?
The Career Center’s redevelopment is not included in the current CIP. The County and APS have held redevelopment discussions about the Career Center over the years, most recently in an August 2007 feasibility study and an April 2008 redevelopment proposal.
17. Has Arlington Public Schools been part of the discussion relating to relocation of the library?
No. The Arlington Public Schools has not asked the library to leave and has not indicated that there would be no place for the library in any redevelopment plan. If a decision is made to relocate the library, then the use of the vacated space would follow in a separate process.
18. Are there still plans to build housing on the Arlington Mill site? Will it be affordable housing?
Yes, there are still plans to building housing on the site. The County is putting the finishing touches on a request for proposals (RFP) and will put that out to bid shortly. The RFP will include goals for affordable housing.
19. How does this proposal impact plans for the other library branches?
The decision to move the library from its current location to Arlington Mill, were it to be made, will not in the foreseeable future have any impact on any decision to close, move, or operate any other library branch.
20. Given the current economic situation, how can the County afford to staff this branch library?
We anticipate minimal increase in operating costs for the library, and some potential for savings, because at the Arlington Mill Community Center, we can share staff for building management/operations, and possibly expand service hours. Moving the branch to Arlington Mill offers an opportunity to take advantage of historically low borrowing rates and a highly favorable construction bidding environment that allows the County to maximize its long term investment on public land.