Leaders said Monday that a new Wake County library in Fuquay-Varina will be built on Judd Parkway, despite pleas to keep it downtown.
Officials had considered three locations. They said the Judd Parkway site, near the post office, is the easiest to build on and has room to expand. Wake County already owns other property nearby, leading county officials – who will fund and staff the library – to say that would bring “synergy” to the location.
The Fuquay-Varina board of commissioners didn’t have a formal vote on the library location because it’s funded by the county. But some said town leaders should have done more to fight for a downtown library as a way to draw more people to downtown establishments.
“I’m very disappointed, because I thought the town board would support this site on Main Street,” said Bob Barker, a local businessman and former mayor.
The county also considered a site between the two downtown districts, which many preferred to create a pedestrian-friendly link between the town’s two districts. Economic development consultants recently suggested that Fuquay-Varina needs that connection.
The option, despite its potential as a tourism draw, would have required two separate parking lots and still would not have had enough parking spaces, town and county officials said.
Jason Horton, the county’s library system representative, also said there are potential environmental issues with the site.
The third option was keeping the 50-year-old library at its current site on South Fuquay Avenue, which had little room for expansion.
“What I heard tonight was that (the downtown) site was not an acceptable site for a regional library,” Mayor John Byrne said.
The existing library is one of the busiest in Wake County, despite also being one of the smallest at 4,400 square feet. The expanded library will double the size of the library and will add thousands of new books and titles.
While board members said they prefer a downtown location, they didn’t want to lose the library altogether if future issues arise that delay construction.
The county had to approve the site quickly, or risk losing the ability to use money from the 2007 library bond that will expire soon.
“I wish you could’ve been downtown,” commissioner Marilyn Gardner said to Horton. “But I certainly understand the issues.”
Getting an expanded library, said Charlie Adcock, “was in my mind first and foremost. A close second was to keep it downtown.”
The current building will be handed over to the town. Officials have discussed creating an arts district, building on the newly purchased Fuquay-Varina Arts Center at the former Stars Theater nearby, although no plans have been determined.
The library will continue operating at its current location until the Judd Parkway location is open. Construction will begin around this time next year, Horton said, with completion scheduled for late 2017 or early 2018.
After the N.C. 540 extension is built and brings more development to town, it will be upgraded again to a regional library design similar to Eva Perry Library in Apex or Raleigh’s Cameron Village Library.
“We’re hoping it won’t be 10 years,” Byrne said. “We’re expecting a regional library there, and we hope you know that.”
In other business, the town board voted to spend $45,000 to hire the Development Finance Institute of the UNC School of Government to help design a plan to attract more housing and mixed-use projects downtown. DFI is the consultant that suggested a downtown connector would benefit the town.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran