ELYRIA — A 1.25-acre piece of downtown property at Broad Street and East Avenue will become the new home of the Elyria Public Library System’s Central Branch, possibly by as soon as the end of 2020.
The total cost of the project is estimated to exceed $1 million, city and library officials said.
City Council voted Monday to guarantee an investment of more than $350,000 by the Elyria Community Improvement Corporation to help purchase 12 downtown parcels for the future site of the library.
Library system Director Lyn Crouse called the downtown block, bordered by Broad Street to the north, Second Street to the south and East Avenue to the east, “a great location,” with Mayor Holly Brinda saying it provided “a catalyst” for further development downtown.
The city is “excited to be able to help the library,” Brinda said. “We believe the benefits outweigh the costs.”
The cost of purchasing the property will be split, with the library contributing $600,000 and the CIC another $327,620 toward the total price tag of $927,620.
The owners of the 12 parcels making up the acquisition include Lorain County Printing and Publishing Co., the parent company of The Chronicle-Telegram (five parcels); Melinda Rogers and ZSR Enterprise and the Chlepchiak Family LTD (two parcels each); the Lorain County Land Reutilization Corp., Danny J. Pruchinsky and Steve Vaszi (one parcel each).
The buildings affected include 115, 119 and 121 East Ave. and 312-322 Broad St. The businesses in the affected buildings,
including Mindy’s Salon and Progressive JC Insurance Agency, will be relocated with help from the city, Brinda said.
Another $30,000 to $50,000 in closing costs will be contributed by the CIC, which, with the help of a Community Development Block Grant, will pay for demolition and a property consolidation survey, the costs of which are yet to be determined. The city also will pay the cost of environmental assessments on the property with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Grant totaling approximately $60,000.
Crouse said the library considered 30 different sites for a new Central Branch, but all exceeded its property acquisition budget. That’s when the city and the CIC stepped in to provide the additional funding. Rehabilitating the current Central Branch library on Washington Avenue was “not feasible and not wise” after asbestos was found there in early 2017, Crouse said.
Councilman Phil Tollett, D-4th Ward, put his support behind the plan “after careful consideration,” he said. The investment will be returned eight- to 12-fold for library patrons, the city and its residents “for years to come,” Tollett said.
Not all of City Council was convinced it was the right move. The vote to approve the ordinance was 9-1, with Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, voting “no” (Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, was not present for the vote).
Madison said he received “numerous phone calls from residents across the city expressing various concerns” about the plan, and Brinda and the administration helped explain the process behind the property acquisition, he said.
However, “I’m not yet convinced this may be the best location for the library,” Madison said. He said questions remain about “what’s the best way” to develop downtown Elyria.
Residents not in favor of the plan included Bill Bird, the retired executive director of the Lorain County Historical Society, and his wife, Janet.
In a letter to all members of Council that the Birds also provided to The Chronicle, they criticized the effects of the planned demolition on the environment; the loss of taxable downtown property totaling approximately $1 million; preservation of the historic downtown; and the wisdom of not building the library on already vacant land.
They also criticized the lack of public comment time at Monday’s meeting and not having access to a copy of the full ordinance prior to its passage.
The purpose of the CIC, Bill Bird said, should be “to help improve what was there, not build and tear them down.”
“I prefer the CIC money be spent to help put useful businesses in those buildings,” he said. “For the city to tear them down is heinous.”
Brinda said the city is not prohibited from altering downtown simply because it is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the buildings in question are not part of that district anyway, she said.
The existing diagonal parking spaces west of the block and south of Pioneer Plaza will be leased to the library by the city for patrons, Brinda said. The library entrance is planned to open onto Pioneer Plaza and future plans are to include the Elyria Arts Council and other civic groups in planning events and concerts there.
“People tend to spend money downtown,” Crouse said.
The EAC will replace the train mural on the west side of the building in the 300 block of Broad Street. The mural already is deteriorating due to water damage and will be replaced on a new exterior wall of the library, Crouse and Brinda said.
“We know people love the murals and we want to keep them for years to come, so we are committed to replacing the mural so that the space remains a tribute to our bicentennial but also allows for the new library building,” Brinda said.
Demolition on the four buildings could start in January, Crouse said. The design phase could last about seven months, she said, with construction taking about another year and the entire building project reaching completion by the end of 2020.
That will coincide with the library’s 150th anniversary, Crouse said.
“And we’re gonna throw a heck of a party,” she added.
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