A $168.7 million library is planned for Santa Cruz, California.

Billions of dollars available for library construction across the U.S.

May 22, 2024

There is an area for contracting that presents a prime opportunity for collaborative initiatives, even though it may not be the primary focus for most contracting firms. It’s worth noting due to the abundance of available opportunities. A recent announcement by the American Libraries Association points out that the country’s libraries are in dire need of attention, and the estimated cost of construction, repair and renovation required is estimated at about $32 billion.

There are over 9,000 public libraries in the U.S. and another 1,600 university libraries. The average public library was built before 1985, and many are over a century old.

Public libraries receive about 86% of their funding from city and county budgets, bond elections or other programs.  However, federal funding programs also support projects such as this. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted libraries, similar to the effect it had on restaurants, movie theaters and the travel industry. Now, however, libraries are filled with students, citizens and families at community gatherings. Funding is currently available for remodeling, renovating or building entirely new facilities. Hundreds of upcoming projects are presently being planned and designed.

The city of Santa Cruz, California, recently approved an investment of $168.7 million for a downtown library project. This initiative will deliver a new mixed-use library and affordable housing nearby. The library will be outfitted to facilitate green transportation, with 250 bicycle parking spaces with e-bike charging and 235 parking spaces with 25 electric-vehicle charging stations.

The library project, currently in the design and planning phase, will be delivered in two phases. Phase 1 is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2025, Phase 2 will begin in December 2025, and the entire project is scheduled for completion by 2027. A recent $33.5 million award from the California Housing and Community Development’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program will support this effort.

Officials at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro will oversee a project to renovate and expand the school’s current library.  The project carries an estimated cost of about $98 million.  Currently, in the design development phase, officials plan for construction bidding to begin in January 2025. Phase 1 will focus on the main library section, which was built in the 1950s. Phase 2 will renovate the library’s tower section, which dates to the 1970s. The renovation will expand the library to more than 73,000 square feet and provide private study space for 485 students. New entrances will be built to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessibility.

After receiving $20 million from the state of New Jersey, officials at New Castle County have announced an investment of $44 million to support a new downtown public library in Newark. Design plans call for a two-story building that will also serve as a community gathering space. It will include space for a digital lab, a craft room and a demonstration kitchen for cooking classes. The library will also incorporate a performance space with tiered seating, allowing for large-scale public events. An outdoor terrace on the second level is planned, along with two additional plazas outside the building. The design plan will be completed in the next few months, and demolition of the existing downtown library is set for May 2025. Construction will follow that effort.

The Newport News, Virginia, city council recently approved designing and constructing a new Virgil Grissom Library at the Sherwood Shopping Center. The project, estimated to cost $40 million, will bring a larger and more modern library facility to the northern area of the city. It will be approximately 50,000 square feet and have space for community meetings, administrative offices, study rooms, a drive-up window, an art gallery and an auditorium stage and seating. Construction will begin in 2025.

The Brookdale Library in Hennepin County, Minnesota, will soon undergo a $30 million remodel. The project will include new carpet, furniture, shelving, upgraded lighting and technology. A children’s space and a meeting area with audio-visual equipment are planned. Major infrastructure repairs will be made to the building, and the roof will be replaced with one with solar panels.  The HVAC system will be replaced, a new parking lot will be constructed, and drainage infrastructure will be improved. This project is currently in the planning and pre-design phase, with construction slated for 2026.

City officials in Maitland, Florida, will oversee a project to deliver a new library at a cost of about $18.7 million. Although the current building has been expanded several times since its construction in 1907, it is now too small to accommodate the community’s needs. A two-story library will be built at Quinn Strong Park.  It will be designed to include reading areas, meeting and activity rooms, staff office space and outdoor patios. Parking spaces and landscaping will be added to the property. The old Maitland Library facility will be redeveloped for public use, potentially as a local museum. This project is currently in the design phase and construction will begin late in 2025 or early in 2026.

Interested parties will be able to get more details about these and other upcoming library projects in each state.

Photo courtesy of the City of Santa Cruz

Mary Scott Nabers

Mary is President/CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a business development/public affairs firm that specializes in procurement consulting, market research, government affairs, knowledge transfer and public-private partnerships (P3s). Mary is also co-founder of the Gemini Global Group (G3), a firm that works with national and international clients on business development, P3s, and other types of government objectives.

A recognized expert regarding P3s, Mary is the author of Collaboration Nation – How Public-Private Ventures Are Revolutionizing the Business of Government and Inside the Infrastructure Revolution – A Roadmap for Rebuilding America.

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