Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Capital steps

The City Council's Capital Facilities Committee had a good meeting this month, and Chair Joe Martin assigned committee members to answer questions and share thoughts on a decision matrix to help determine whether Appleton should plan to build a new library or remodel the current facility. He will assess the collective answers of the respondents and use them to guide committee discussions.

I'm looking forward to seeing the range of responses from the thirteen member committee -- I'm sure there are many ideas I'd agree with, and maybe some I won't. Although I do not sit on the committee, Ald. Martin solicited feedback from Library administrative staff. Herewith, his questions and my responses:

Project Feasibility Decision Matrix


Have the past two architectural and consultant studies sufficiently established the need to address library facility concerns?
  • Yes – there has been a lot of public input, including scientific random input from users and nonusers, as well as architectural and operational analysis that documents real needs.


What are the requirements of the users that may influence the site location?
  • There are several market segments with identifiable site-related needs, mostly due to transportation mode:
    • Automobile drivers need convenient parking
    • Automobile and private bus passengers need convenient, safe drop-off
    • Pedestrians, especially downtown workers and shoppers, need a site close to the central city
    • Valley Transit passengers, including school children, need a site within a few blocks of the Transit Center
    • Elderly, parents with multiple young children and handicapped, need convenient parking near the library entrance
What affinities to other groups are necessary?
  • It is highly desirable that the library be perceived as serving virtually every demographic in the City. In looking at affinities to other organizations, public schools and other educational groups would rank high, as would other government (local, state and national) and a range of community nonprofit groups who would either use library space or do joint programming with the library.
Is the site compatible with the long-range plan of the library?
  • The current site is basically compatible, but the current structure lacks both design features and space for current and future community needs. Concerns in the long-range plan would be most fully addressed by a new structure designed to address current priorities and future needs, but could also be addressed by extensive remodeling.


Are there potential donors to the project?
  • Unlike police stations, water plants or other municipal construction projects, libraries have the potential to attract significant donations to help with construction. 25-33% of project cost is not unusual for public library projects.
  • There are numerous potential donors, ranging from philanthropic individuals and corporations to grass-roots donations from a wide range of the library’s 86,000 cardholders.
  • Realizing this potential will require considerable effort, and we assume much of the private fund-raising could be done by the Friends of the Appleton Library (FOAL) -- our community support group. Success of private fund-raising will be greatly enhanced by two factors: naming rights and perceptions of civic presence. A new library will have significantly more potential to bring in donations than a remodel.
Can revenue generation be used to fund the facilities construction or on-going costs? i.e. leasing OWLS, Literacy Coalition, other non-profits
  • Some, although this is limited and related to project scope. Potential tenants among nonprofit organizations are unlikely to be able to afford anything comparable to prime commercial rentals. OWLS (the Outagamie Waupaca Library System, which provides many services to APL) currently pays about $30,000/year, and while this is on the low side of cost per square foot in the downtown, Appleton derives many benefits from their presence in ways that would be difficult to quantify in dollars. Likewise, we once housed the Literacy Coalition pro bono. If we were to house groups such as the Literacy Coalition or Multicultural Center, it would be due to the Library’s ongoing participation in and support of these groups as much, if not more, than for revenue generation.
  • There is limited potential for commercial development to be co-located with a new library, but absent the involvement of a developer from the inception of the project, this would be difficult to pursue and fit into a structure.
  • The most typical commercial activity found in public libraries is a library friends’ store, which will usually sell used books, library merchandise and sometimes have a coffee bar. This would be part of library space to supplement operating income rather than to generate general revenue.


Is there an alternate solution for solving this space problem?

  • The only viable alternatives comprising complete solutions are either extensive remodeling and expansion or new construction. It would be possible to address some concerns with a smaller scale remodel and expansion project, but this would almost certainly be unsatisfactory in the long term and neither result in service enhancements the community is seeking nor the same level of operational savings to be realized through more comprehensive design changes.
Do the existing facilities need to be remodeled, or are new facilities required?
  • Extensive remodeling and expansion could answer very well, but would neither offer as many opportunities for operational savings through significant design improvements, nor make as strong a case for private funding as would a new building. A new building could also spur other downtown development to a greater extent than an expansion.
Is the space currently available within the library?
  • Neither space nor design features to meet the needs are available within the existing structure and the existing footprint.


What effect will this project have on other projects?
  • Much of the effect will depend on the nature of the project. For example, a new building would make the current facility available for other uses, such as a larger, more visible and accessible City Hall. A new building attached to this one and the East Ramp would likely require the relocation of Valley Transit. A new building close to the river front could impact other development initiatives.
Is there a domino effect where another building will need to be renovated?
  • Presumably, were this building vacated by the Library, it would require some renovation for different use. While it is theoretically possible that some other building could be renovated as a library, this is not highly practicable due to design and engineering requirements.

Remodeling construction during the operation of the library
  • There are two scenarios: one where the library moves to temporary quarters and one where remodeling is done while library operations adapt. The first would require the library to close twice for two moves and maintain dual facilities, but remodeling could be done most quickly. The second would not require closing but would entail serial disruptions of various services, and add to construction costs and duration. The extent of renovation might be a deciding factor.
Disruptions, limited usage
  • Disruptions and limited usage would be significantly less with new construction as opposed to renovation. There would only be one move and it could be phased to keep closed days to minimum. By tweaking loan periods and asking for public help, some portion of the collection could be moved by patrons checking items out from the old library and returning them to the new.
  • The advantages here are relatively short-term, but would result in some operational cost impacts for about two years of any project.
Adapting current spaces vs. designing
  • There are some substantive advantages to designing new vs. remodeling. The first is in better opportunities to design spaces to meet current and anticipated future needs, rather than adapting. New design offers greater possibilities for efficiency, ease of use, and meeting community needs. Adapting will necessarily require a greater degree of compromise. The goal is to provide the best possible public service, knowing that staffing and operational resources will be limited over the long term.
Community perceptions / values / civic presence / identity
  • The second advantage to new design is the message we send to – and the presence we create in -- the community. A highly visible and substantial investment in this public service makes a clear statement that this city values education, family, opportunity and community space. It says that we value our downtown and will invest in its success, creating better destinations for people, and more reasons to be part of Appleton. The library is a gateway to knowledge, opportunity and community, as well as to our downtown.
  • A corollary benefit is the opportunity to create as sustainable and green a building as makes sense for operational needs and costs: as an educational and highly visible public space, this creates a statement of community values and concern for the future.


John J. Gosling said...

Terry et al,

Could a new library be sited where Harmony Cafe was before? I do envision a multiple floor site there with solar panels on the roof. This could abut the apartment complex and the City Center building.

What do you think?

John Gosling

Terry Dawson said...

Conceivably – although you should know that the apartment building on the corner has an uncertain future. Our problem here is one of footprint, square footage and designing for services. We have thought about that space. We need about 140,000 sq. ft. according to studies. We would like to have a building that can be operated as cheaply as possible, which means as few floors as possible, though we could conceivably put meeting rooms and offices outside the public service areas.

In any event, we can’t really address possible sites until we determine that we want a new building – and the City Council votes to make it happen. Until then, most of the questions about where to put it are premature. Once we have decided to build, there will have to be a public process to select the site – I have a tentative list of about 20 possibilities.

I like the solar panels...