RIDGEFIELD — Officials and staff in the city of Ridgefield hope to soon have a set plan for construction of a new community library in downtown Ridgefield.
According to information presented to Ridgefield City Council members this past August, city officials determined that current facilities for the public library, which is currently located in the Ridgefield Community Center at 210 N. Main Ave., no longer meet the needs of the growing community.
The Fort Vancouver Regional Library District conducted a 2013 needs assessment, which recommended increased library capacity in Ridgefield due to the city’s usage rate at the existing library, existing space constraints, growth of the past decade creating unmet needs and the projected growth to approximately 25,000 people by 2035.
“Once again, we just outgrew our space,” said City Manager Steve Stuart. “We worked with our Friends of the Library group and did a needs analysis and determined we need about a 10-15,000-square-foot library building.”
Stuart also pointed out that there currently isn’t really any parking at the existing library facility, aside from street parking.
In 2014, the Library District conducted a 2014 Building Pre-Design Program, including analysis of Ridgefield Public Library needs and potential sites. The report identified five potential sites as possible sites for a new library. In 2015, City Council members evaluated a total of nine potential library sites, including the five sites identified by the Library District. Of those nine sites, only two offered the accessibility, size, configuration and location identified as necessary for an expanded library.
“We’ve been working with community members, asking what they are looking for in a new library,” Stuart said. “It’s been very consistent that people want to keep the new library downtown. We want the site to offer visibility and accessibility from Main, and be able to have plenty of room for parking and possibly other community space.”
Of the two potential sites identified by City Council members, it was determined that the one that best met the city’s needs based on the needs analysis, site evaluation and community input is properties located at the corner of Mill Street and Main Avenue, and extending west along Mill to Railroad Avenue.
“It (the library) would be a multi-story building with entry on Main,” Stuart said. “The multiple stories would offer great views to the west, there will be plenty of room for great parking on street level on Main. Council felt this was the best site they could help with, the Library District will ultimately decide on the site, and they are still currently looking at other sites.”
Stuart said that of the parcels of land that are in this identified site, two of them that are necessary for a new library and parking are currently privately owned. He said the city has every intention of working with the current property owners in order to come to an agreement on purchase of the property. No agreements have yet been reached, and Stuart said the city has started condemnation proceedings in order to let the property owners know that they are serious about purchasing the property.
“This opens up the conversation,” Stuart said. “We have had a lot of good conversation already with one of the property owners. Our Community Development Department is actually currently renting on the manufactured homes on the property. It provides needed space for us and also provides revenue to the property owner.”
Stuart said the timeline for the project isn’t concrete at this time, as they have just started the appraisal process on the properties, which can take anywhere from nine months to a year to get through.
“In one to two years, we would hope to be constructing a new library,” Stuart said. “The council and city’s interest is seeing a new library get built in Ridgefield.”
Construction of the new library building would be a private/public partnership, meaning a private party would build the new space, which could include other community space for commercial projects on the property. Stuart said the Library District could potentially save quite a bit of money by using a private developer and having tenants in the different commercial spaces, and also having the option to purchase the building later. That way, the Library District doesn’t have to raise all the money right away.
Stuart said there will be no cost to the city in constructing the building, unless they somehow participated as a tenant (using commercial meeting space, etc.). He said the Ridgefield Friends of the Library group has already raised $1 million for the project, which has already been matched by an anonymous donor.
Stuart said city officials have been working with members of the Library District in order to provide better materials and visuals to community members to give a better idea of what a new potential library site would look like. They will continue to do so throughout the planning process.