RIVERSIDE: Main library will
move; new site to be determined
Trustees decide on a move despite public attachment to the current site
From The Press Enterprise 12/14/15
Riverside library officials don’t know where the main library will go, but they have decided it shouldn’t stay on land it has occupied for more than a century at Mission Inn Avenue and Orange Street.
Despite community attachment to the downtown library’s historic site, library trustees voted Monday night, Dec. 14, to recommend looking at other locations to build a modern, high-tech facility and reusing the old library for some unspecified public, cultural purpose.
A 0.64-acre corner lot about a block from Riverside’s Fox Performing Arts Center, the downtown bus station property at Fairmount Boulevard and University Avenue and an empty lot at University and Park avenues are among the sites that will be vetted in more detail.
The City Council has the final say on whether the library would stay where it is and be renovated, move to the corner lot near the Fox at Mission Inn and Chestnut Street, which was Library Director Tonya Kennon’s proposal, or move somewhere else. If it is relocated, City Manager John Russo has said the old library building would be used for something public and cultural.
“The (old) building is simply not functional for the service needs of today and tomorrow,” Kennon said. “The current building will not yield a cost-effective modern library.”
Library supporters have said the current site is ideally located near other downtown cultural treasures, and the building is historic if not universally beloved.
Downtown resident Chani Beeman reiterated that position Monday, saying, “I believe its current location is part of the heart of Riverside.”
But Kennon told the library board that the old site would require costly repairs and changes, while a new building could have an up-to-date design that would incorporate modern technology, and some residents seemed persuaded.
“The main library is a money pit,” resident and former library trustee Susan Coffer said. “I think as a community we’re beating a dead horse here.”
Earlier estimates to renovate the old 60,000-square-foot library were about $22 million, and a city report suggested other fixes such as seismic upgrades and relocating stairs and elevators would add another $5 million to $10 million.
No designs have been created for the proposed new site and no cost estimates are available, but officials have discussed a three-story building of about 45,000 square feet that would include an open floor plan and flexible, multi-use spaces.
Some board members rejected Kennon’s proposal, the Mission Inn and Chestnut site, saying it’s too small and won’t solve the library’s existing troubles with parking.
But they also couldn’t agree to take that site off the table. In the end, the board asked for information on a number of possible sites that they’ll discuss within the next few months. Some options may even be outside downtown’s traditional core.
Trustee Erin House suggested looking into a collaboration with UC Riverside or California Baptist University on a new library, noting that Cal Baptist is closer to the geographic and population centers of the city than the main library is now.
“I think we need to look at a lot more sites and really try to expand our thinking on this,” he said.