Austin city leaders break ground on new Central Public Library

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and FOTI KALLERGIS / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Updated Thursday, May 30 at 6:32 PM

AUSTIN -- It was a moment some Austinites anticipated for more than a decade.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, donning a hard hat, counted to three, and with the shoveling of dirt, the ground breaking of the Austin Central Public Library was complete.

"This is a momentous day for the Austin Public Library," exclaimed Brenda Branch, City of Austin director of libraries. 

"We've been looking forward to the groundbreaking for a really long time," said Austin resident Jennifer Freeman.

Amanda Davidson agreed. "We're excited. We love the library. We spend a fair amount of time there so we're looking forward to having a new central one."

To say the project is a long time coming is an understatement.

"This project was actually approved by the council back in 1998, so that's 15 years ago," explained Leffingwell.

In 2006, voters approved a $90 million bond package for the project. So why the seven year hold for construction to begin?

"This sobering reality, even with the bond funds -- we didn't have enough money to build the kind of signature library we knew this community expected and deserved," City Manager Marc Ott told a crowd at the ground breaking.

City leaders flew to Europe to tour some of the world's top ranked libraries. To build one of that caliber that would last for years to come, they said they needed $120 million.

"One of the problems that we typically have in big capital projects like this is trying to get a good handle on what funds are going to be needed," added Leffingwell. "We're in the process now of using private sources, friends of the public library and so forth to raise the additional $30 million to build the project."

"The coolest thing about this library is that it's going to be a community gathering place. We're going to have all kinds of public spaces, meeting rooms, auditorium," said Branch.

The state-of-the-art facility will be nearly 200,000 square feet and stand five-stories tall. The floor plan renderings show the library will have a café, an art gallery and a large bicycle corral.

Inside, the building will use less energy because of numerous windows and an open floor plan. It will also have its own rain irrigation system. There will also be an event forum with seating and other rooms to hold large gatherings or events. Plus a children's area with a number of reading spaces. Next to that, there will be a teen area with more teenage-appropriate books and desks where students can study.

The new library will also be high-tech and will include computers with Wi-Fi and many other technological amenities.

The construction of the library is just one piece of a development project that's going to change the face of Shoal Creek and downtown Austin. To the west of the library, the Seaholm Power Plant is being converted into an office space. There will also be dozens of stores, including a Trader Joe's and an apartment complex.

To the east of the library, construction on another mixed use development is set to start at the end of the year, and a bridge will extend 2nd Street into the area.

Construction on the library will actually start in December. The grand opening is scheduled for the Spring of 2016.

Click here to see renderings of the Austin Central Public Library.

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