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Homestead Announces Deal with Library

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Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 12:15 am | Updated: 9:10 am, Fri Jan 4, 2019.

A six-member City Council heard City Manager George Gretsas explain a new deal with the County library at the meeting on Thursday December 27.

Mayor Jeff Porter presided over the special call session to revise construction plans for the Cybrary. Council first approved negotiations December 2016 to design this unique interactive facility, termed a 22nd Century library.

Gretsas said the current County library is on City-owned land. The building was constructed by the County.

City planners hoped to move the library operation into the new Cybrary structure adjacent to Homestead Station. If successful, the City would have no obligation to the County for the old library building. A City/County library partnership would also benefit attendance for both facilities.

“There’s been a lot of back and forth about what the building is worth if they’re asked to vacate,” said Gretsas. He said the County’s appraisal estimated the library’s value at $3.5 million.

The verbal agreement with the County allows the library to operate on the first floor and mezzanine spaces of the Cybrary - about 18,000 square feet according to Gretsas. “The second and third floors would be frozen so we can continue to raise the funds necessary to finish the technology portions of this facility,” said Gretsas. 

The revised plans before Council were for the architectural firm, DLR, to separate the design of the building. The library’s space would be a “vanilla box” for the County to complete and furnish. The Cybrary floors would be “a cold dark shell” when finished.

The cost for DLR to revise its construction plans is $232,000 according to the staff memo to Council.

The County Commission must approve the proposed agreement before issuing a letter of intent to renegotiate a final lease. The City proposes to give the library a 39 year lease costing $1 per year. The City has the right to take over at the end of the lease while the County could terminate after 25 years. The City also guaranteed the County 45 spaces in the new parking garage.

The memo of the agreement states, “Once plan revisions are finalized, the City will be able to complete its negotiations with Axiom for a Guaranteed Maximum Price.” Axiom is the project builder based on DLR’s plans.

The memo also states, “This item is being expedited in an effort to ensure construction is coordinated with Axiom’s ongoing work on Homestead Station.”

In addition to the flow of construction, Gretsas explained there are funding deadlines for the “free money portion” of the financing. “We don’t want to lose the HUD money,” he said.

Gretsas again said taxes would not be raised for the Cybrary and taxpayers would not be obligated to pay for the project.

Councilwoman Patricia Fairclough asked the Manager specifically about New Market Tax Credit financing still under discussion. She asked the actual cost of the building with its modern tilt wall construction. The general price for the three and a half story building would be about $6.5 million, Gretsas said.

Mayor Porter praised the staff’s work on this issue. “One of the interesting things the (County) Mayor said was instructing the library folks to plan a 21st Century version of the place,” Mayor Porter said. Manager Gretsas explained that the County had plans for a brand new collection in the new space, significantly larger than current material.

Council approved the request for revisions reflecting the library negotiations by a vote of six to zero.

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