Should the library move to the mall?

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Leaving aside the issue of whether you think the Town Council actually will move the library (which I highly doubt, but feel free to discuss in the comments), what do you think the town actually should do?For background on the proposal, see Brian's post from last November.

Total votes: 0

28 Comments

Additional reasons not to move to the mall

 I join the chorus to keep the library at its current location, adding three reasons: Town control of a town facility:  At the mall, far too many variables are beyond town control, e.g., the success of the mall, the economy, and short-term profit desires of the mall owners. Town conflict of interest:  The town would make one commercial enterprise special -- special with respect to its competitors and special in its relationship to the town. For future mall changes, mall owners must seek town approval while the town has a financial stake well beyond mall tax revenues.  I want University Mall to flourish.  However the town must treat all businesses equally. Voter trust:  Voters approved a 2003 referendum to enlarge our library at its current site.  While it may be legal to rebuild the library elsewhere, it's not wise.  Consider what happened when the town funded our current library.  In 1986 voters passed a 4 million dollar referendum by a 77-23 margin.  Clearly the voters were willing to pay for a new library.  But for some reason, this was not enough money, and in 1990, the town council asked the voters for an additional 3 million.  This failed 51-49.  Yes it failed, even for a library, even in Chapel Hill.  I speculate that the majority of the voters lost trust with the council on this issue. Our library is a wonderful facility at a beautiful site.  Please keep it there. 

Barbara Crockett's picture

Still,...

Dillards is doing poorly nationally so it is not a stretch to assume that they may look to close the UMall location. I hope they don't, but they do things their own way.I voted for the library bond issue, but at the risk of repeating myself, that was in a different economic environment. Just because voters passed a bond years ago doesn't mean it's a smart thing to issue more debt and increase library operating costs now, regardless of whether the library moves or stays.It sounds like the town really does need more space for Parks and Rec. If you factor in the cost of building that space, the UMall proposal looks more interesting.Accessibility by bus at the current location is awkward at best, difficult at worst. Folks who can only access the current library via bus are not well served. Saying the library is on a bus route or saying that people can walk begs the issue. Not all can walk easily uphill during all times of the year - elderly, disabled, perhaps young children. To be fair, the town could address that problem at the current location, but it would cost. I LOVE the trees and the design of the current library, but the visual link to the natural world is not central to the library's core mission. It's a treasure, but the library would still be the library somewhere else.The intersection at at the library is dangerous at certain times of the day and certain times of the year. Serious accidents have occurred there.That said, moving to UMall would not be without risk and might not be the smartest thing to do at this point in time. I think a library would be great there, and if not a library, maybe a cyber library like in Carrboro - one that is on multiple bus lines with frequent stops to serve lower income and/or car-less folks. That costs money, so maybe not now.....I am thrilled the town council has the balls to consider this proposal. It's the kind of cost/benefit analysis that they absolutely must start doing more of in today's economic climate, especially if we want to keep serving our least economically powerful constituents just as much as our more affluent constituents as best we can.I will happily continue to use the library at its current location. I wish the town council the best as it considers all options. 

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Make the bus go up the hill; it used to

Make the buses go up the hill; they used to.  This is not a costly thing, relatively speaking.Moreover, which is more costly - fixing some of the annoyances of the otherwise good setting for a building originally designed as a library, or moving the whole thing to be built somewhere else?  The cost of updating the library versus the (reported estimate of) costs to build in the mall setting is a matter of about 7% difference - which, as anyone who has dealt with renovation, moving, or construction knows, can disappear quickly when reality arrives with the actual bills.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Actually it is pretty costly

Actually it is pretty costly to have the bus go up the hill (and up Estes, necessarily) as it probably adds at least 10 minutes on to the route each way. This is one of the reasons I always thought this was a poor site for a library in the first place.

James Barrett's picture

But the buses have to turn

But the buses have to turn left out of the library, which is a pain and dangerous thing to do.  I know friends who won't use the library because of previous, extremely dangerous crash they had there.  And where do you come up with 7%?  If you want to include the cost to purchase new space, you have to include the benefit of the town having the space at existing building available as well, which is stated as $3.5m savings.  So the $4m purchase price is about a wash, and we're back at 25% savings.  Which is significant. Fight the FUD 

Buses

According to the CH transit map there is no bus route that goes down Estes Drive. http://townofchapelhill.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=2606So even if it went up the hill, I don't believe the circle drive at the library can accommodate one of the newer buses.Personally, I believe that easy access to transit should be one of the primary design requirements for any public buildings, and especially for the library. Having a nice parklike setting wouldn't even make it to the top 10 of my design requirements. 

Barbara Crockett's picture

Do buses go to library?

I knew bus service to the library was or used to be minimal, but I didn't realize it was actually non-existant, at least according to how I read the map. Can that be right? Is there ANY bus service to the library?

Barbara Crockett's picture

It means I thought

there was a bit more bus service than that. I thought I remembered seeing the occasional bus show up closer to the library, but that could have been years ago or perhaps I imagined it. However, it seems that the issue is settled according to another post. Glad the town examined the proposal. I hope Dillards remains at UMall. I will continue to enjoy the library.

George C's picture

I'll Repeat My Earlier Post

The Town Manager's assessment is that the Town and Madison Marquette have not been able to reach a level
of savings that makes this an attractive offer to the Town, given all
the concerns raised.  Jay Lask, Managing Director of Madison Marquette
agrees with this assessment in a letter to Council.  Although Council
could still decide to move forward, given these two unfavorable
assessments it seems unlikely.

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Parks and Rec, a separate issue

The needs of Parks and Rec should not be a controlling issue in this discussion, or even a major consideration in weighing the fate of the library. First decide whether it makes sense to relocate the library, then and only if it does, figure out what might go in its place.  Parks and Rec's situation is a separate issue that merits separate consideration.    To say Parks and Rec needs a new building (which it does) and admires the library setting -- and therefore the Town should make the library move elsewhere --  not only flies in the face of what voters thought they were doing with the library bond issue, it also sets a very bad precedent in Town planning.  What if someone argued that the library should take over the Community Center site for x, y, and z reasons and therefore the Community Center should move into the Mall?

Barbara Crockett's picture

The bigger picture is important....

You make some great points. A budget is the clearest statement of the town's values. Spending money for one thing influences everything else. One could consider the library by itself but the truth is it does not exist in a vacuum.  It is one line item in relation to every other line item in the town's budget. I think it's perfectly acceptable to factor in the cost of parks and recs space into some budget scenarios. After doing that, the town may decide to jettison those scenarios or not.The problem with bond referenda is that they ask voters a very particular question at a specific point in time. If the assumptions, e.g., the economics, unexpectedly change, the town looses the ability to react. Still, I would not assume that voters would want to move the library to the UMall location, but if I were to vote today for library expansion, I would vote no.....not because I don't value the library, I do. It's just that the town needs to spend within its means. 

James Barrett's picture

I voted for the bonds and agree

Plus, the situation for libary usage has changed even since the designs have been put in place with OC buying land for a library in Carrboro.  That will have an impact, no?  So we should keep our open minds to consider alternative solutions as the world changes.  Otherwise, we're no better than the conservatives.

Cam Hill's picture

The whole library issue.....

Missing in this discussion is the new library the county says they are going to build in Carrboro. Funny how a library intended to serve the southwestern part of the county ends up on the eastern side of the county.....I think it is time the leadership of Carrboro and Chapel Hill and the county started behaving like grownups. Spending money on a library in Carrboro seems to be fiscally irresponsible. Remodeling the Chapel Hill Public library is a bad idea as well. The site and the current building resist an addition. Too much money will be spent on "remodeling"-demolition, cutting and patching, moving existing facilities. These are all factors that make this an extremely expensive project at an imperfect site.The county should kick in more money to Chapel Hill's library. Another library could be built in Carrboro at the new Art Center building (whatever its called). This would help get this project going and Carrboro would avoid the mistake that Chapel Hill made of siting its library away from downtown. The new library in Carrboro would reduce Chapel Hill's need to expand.    Cam

Mr. Hill you started pushing

Mr. Hill you started pushing the "working together wagon" down the road but you didn't go far enough. The elected leaders of this County including Hillsborough need to be locked into a room and hash out some kind of plan of who is going to provide what service to the taxpayers and stop this I need my own library, parks & rec, economic development dept, and etc but that is unlikely to happen due to lack of backbone. When are they going to think outside the lines?

Mark Marcoplos's picture

Yes - Commissioners need a little more spine

Patrick is right that this version of the BOCC seems to be short on boldness and vision. The economic development approach seems to be a continuation of the standard operating procedure. We've just seen a new Economic Dev. Director chosen who seems straight out of Planning Central. The BOCC is starting to remind me of the CH-Carrboro School Board where instead of the Board leading the way, Neil Pedersen always seemed to be the one in charge & the one speaking for the Board. This seems to be happening more lately with County Manger Clifton and the current Board. I can't quite put my finger on it. The BOCC seems to be a nice enough bunch of technocrats without any real substantial creative ideas or the willingness to take a bold stand and with many members just going along timidly on policy issues.    

Roscoe's picture

This & That

Don't think the County will be building a library in Carrboro in any near future.Don't go to the library to reflect, relax or look at the scenery; get my book, get out.I Consider the left turn out of the library drive to be a major downside of the current site, and a big boost to the Mall site.As I understand the deal, the Town will buy the mall site, and with A Southern Season at the other end, who cares if the rest of the mall struggles? If the mall goes down, they can't foreclose on the Town's part.Best bus access is at the mall.I live in the floodplane, the mall is in the floodplane; my house has never flooded and I don 't think the mall has either......and we've had some major flooding in town.The cost thing may be a wash. I don't think we should be spending such an amount of money on a library now, but, I guess that's a dead horse.

Priscilla Murphy's picture

7%, traffic, owner-occupancy, etc.

1. The town's estimate of expansion costs is $15.5 million ( which voters did authorize) -- while the upper limit of cost
extimates for moving to the mall is -- currently* -- $14.5 million (which we didn't). Although both figures must be considered guesswork and subject to upward pressure, the difference is $1 million, which hovers close to a 7% difference.  And note: *Several - including letter-writers and the editor in a recent CHNews - have noted that the estimates of move-to-mall costs are woefully lacking in completeness, as it is.  2. Basing the decision to move the entire library on bus logistics and the difficulty of a left turn seems even more the tail wagging the dog than basing it on whether Parks and Rec needs a new building. (FWIW I happen to think turning left out of the mall onto Estes Drive is at least as death-defying as the left turn out of Library Drive -- often more so.  Using Willow involves a left turn that can be challenge as well.) 3. "With A Southern Season at the other end, who cares if the rest of the malll struggles? If the mall goes down, they can't foreclose on the
Town's part."   Being the "anchor" of an abandoned mall is a very bad fate -- and by the way, Southern Season has moved before.  Retail occupancy is endlessly mutable, an advantage for owners but not for owner-occupants. (And not that the flood-plane argument seems compelling to anyone not located at Eastgate, but fllood planes are humid, not a friendly thing for books, although I understand many people now think books are a minimal part of library life.) 4. "As bad as conservatives"?   Basing this kind of decision entirely on economic priorities and pro-business interests, regardless of other values, is what I'd consider a hallmark of conservative thinking.  But even then, the least expensive option here is the "or we could do nothing and leave things as they are" option.  Although I'm not hearing anyone advocate that option, it is, of course, the default setting.

James Barrett's picture

7%

But 14.5m gets us 27k sf of town space that becomes available for other purposes.  The manager's presentation from last week indicates this has a value of $3.5m. You can't ignore that. Maybe it makes me a moderate, but I don't think spending additional $ just to spend it is a liberal value.   I can think of lots of better things to actually benefit people to spend $4.5m on than the view from inside the library. And my comment (while obnoxious) is aimed at the "we had a plan so we must stick to it" argument, not whether the Mall is a better location specifically.

George C's picture

The Town Manager's Assessment Is ...

that the Town and Madison Marquette have not been able to reach a level of savings that makes this an attractive offer to the Town, given all the concerns raised.  Jay Lask, Managing Director of Madison Marquette agrees with this assessment in a letter to Council.  Although Council could still decide to move forward, given these two unfavorable assessments it seems unlikely.

Priscilla Murphy's picture

Equations that aren't quite...

But 14.5m gets us 27k sf of town space that becomes available for other purposes.  The manager's presentation from last week indicates this has a value of $3.5m. You can't ignore that.Spend $14.5 m to get space worth $3.5 m?  That's not really what you mean, but even taking your equation in context, it's a little like saying that you've gotten a gift of $1000 worth of airfare and lodging without acknowledging that it was contingent on a much larger outlay to buy and develop land at the other end.  In any case, we even can't rely on the implied equation (spend X, subtract cost of Y, calculate difference to arrive at cost of 2[available spaces]) to remain constant or complete; and the $3.5 m is not an independent, liquid asset.  There are contingencies having to do with the status,  condition and value of the rest of the mall; the requirement of added cost to make the space usable; tax considerations; replacement equivalences if the library needs to be moved again, and so on.