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Central Library revamp hits a snag

The cost of the long-planned project has risen by 50%, officials say.

June 18, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • The exterior of the Central Library may get a new entrance on Harvard Street fit with a staircase.
The exterior of the Central Library may get a new entrance… (Courtesy of Gruen…)

The project costs for a Central Library revamp have ballooned from $10 million to $15 million, and while the City Council on Tuesday agreed the renovations are necessary to revive the city's core, they didn't make a decision on how to fill the funding gap because two members were absent.

Officials plan to discuss funding options again in two weeks but it may be difficult to reach a consensus because the three council members who were present differed in their approaches to the problem.

For decades, officials have been talking about renovating the library, but it's only been in recent years that the plan to do so began to gel. Officials envision moving the library's entrance to Harvard Street, creating a perpendicular anchor to Maryland Avenue, which serves as the city's entertainment district.

The library's Brutalist architecture would be brightened by new windows and the interior would increase communal spaces as the library's role transforms from a book repository to a gathering spot.

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In 2010, the city's redevelopment agency issued about $10 million in bonds to pay for the project, but that was frozen when state lawmakers axed redevelopment agencies throughout California in February 2012 in order to close a multi-billion state budget gap.

Since then, officials have jumped through hoops to unwind the redevelopment agency, which used increasing property taxes in blighted areas improved by developments such as the Americana at Brand and Disney's Creative Campus to support even more developments.

Recently, state Department of Finance officials gave Glendale the go-ahead to use the 2010 bond money tied up in redevelopment's dissolution.

However, the project's costs increased. Officials planned to tap $34.5 million in 2011 redevelopment bonds for economic improvements, but state officials have blocked them from using that money.

So city staff has suggested the council consider various blends of General Fund reserves, gas taxes and a federally-funded program called "New Market Tax Credits" to come up with additional revenues.

In the latter program, the federal government gives investors, such as banks, tax credits in exchange for giving money to projects in low-income areas.

While Mayor Dave Weaver and Councilmen Frank Quintero and Ara Najarian agreed on the revamp's importance, they disagreed on how to tackle the funding problem.

"We've waited long enough," Quintero said. "I think it's a missing piece in downtown."

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