Modified library plan gets warm reception

Jul. 19, 2014 @ 05:06 PM

A revised plan to transform the area in front of the High Point Neal F. Austin Public Library into a public gathering space has received a positive reception from city leaders.

High Point architect Peter Freeman recently presented plans for the “library plaza” project to the City Council.
Freeman, along with a committee of library supporters and other residents, developed the concept based on the Ignite High Point master plan, which recommends transforming the library parking lot into a central location for events.
The plan would add trees and other landscaping, while rearranging some of the parking configurations and traffic patterns on the site.
It would add pedestrian pathways and a fountain to the parking lot. It wouldn’t have as much space for major events, such as a farmers market or concert, as the initial concept the group proposed, but could still serve as focal point for the community.
“You get a pretty large gathering space in front,” Freeman said. “The need for a farmers and arts market still exists. If we don’t do that on the library site, that’s probably OK, but let’s make sure we keep that in our sights.”
It would maintain at 178 the total number of parking spaces and would preserve the library’s closest row of parking.
The council opposed the group’s initial plan because it would have eliminated some of the spaces close to the building. Council members spoke highly of the revised plan, and directed city staff to determine how much it would cost to implement the concept.
“I think it enhances and beautifies and retains the dignity of what a library is,” said Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall. “I was never fond of a farmers market being there. I think this concept is so beautiful for the library, and I think it really enhances what a library is and should be.”
Councilwoman Becky Smothers suggested looking into whether overhead utility lines along N. Main Street adjacent to the library could be buried in conjunction with the plaza concept.
The city has not spent about $5.7 million in two-thirds bonds that were issued in 2012 for downtown improvement projects.
The city’s bond attorneys are looking into whether any of the money could be used for a library plaza project.
The funding could likely be used to bury overhead wires.
“It would cost about $500,000 per block,” Smothers said.
pkimbrough@hpe.com | 888-3531