Library finalizes land purchase for expansion
FAYETTEVILLE — Things are rolling now that the library has closed on its deal to buy the old City Hospital land, the site of its future 80,000-square-foot expansion.
The library finalized the $2 million purchase Wednesday, paving the way for the more detailed phases of the project and officially putting four years of litigation to an end.
In 2013, Washington Regional Medical Center and the library agreed on a contract to sell the four acres contingent upon clearing of the land’s title. Heirs of the Stone family, who donated the property just south of the library to the city a century ago, intervened, saying the agreement didn’t honor the gift’s original intent. The Arkansas Supreme Court in March affirmed Washington Regional as the rightful owner, enabling the sale to proceed.
“If I really think about it, the wait on the title gave us a lot of opportunity to educate the community,” said David Johnson, library executive director. In the meantime, the library upgraded its Human Resources and internal systems, laying down the foundation for expanded operations, he said.
Voters in August approved a millage increase to help pay for the proposed $49 million expansion. The construction bonds were issued two weeks ago and sold for $26.9 million, slightly above the initially projected $26.5 million amount, Johnson said. The money will be in the bank July 19, he said.
Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle, the architects of the library who presented concept art to the public, have been hired to design the expansion and are in contract negotiation with the city. More public input sessions will take place this fall.
Preliminary plans call for doubling youth services and parking, more meeting space, a genealogy and local history space and a multipurpose center. The expansion is set to open in 2021.
A construction management company will be selected at the end of the month. The old City Hospital building will be demolished. The asbestos abatement planning process is underway and bids will go out to do the work after that.
The library board OK’d signing the land deal during its April meeting. Board member Maylon Rice signed on the dotted line Wednesday.
“Everything is kind of shaping up,” Johnson said.