Li­brary fi­nal­izes land pur­chase for ex­pan­sion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - STACY RYBURN Stacy Ryburn can be reached by email at sry­ or on Twit­ter @sta­cyry­burn.

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.

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