Friday, July 18, 2008

Library shenanigans

Time for an update on the Central Library. No thanks to the AJC, who have still yet to write anything regarding the Fulton County Commission meeting Wednesday. Much thanks to Max Eternity and the AFPLWatch, who have followed this issue better than I.

From what I can gather, the FCC stripped the Library Master Plan of the $34 million line item for renovation the downtown library. They then added $50 million to the budget, for a total of $84 million intended for a new Central Library. The library intends to raise $85 million in private funds to compliment these public funds. The existing Central Library will be sold, and proceeds would also go toward the cost of a new Central Library.

Commission Chair John Eaves noted that none of the citizens attending the meeting were in favor of a new Central Library; he also reported that he had not received any comments from the public praising the idea.

Commissioner Lynne Riley reminded her colleagues that the two-year process of asking the public for input about the library system's Facilities Master Plan had generated no proposals for a new Central Library.

Eaves and Riley were the only commissioners who opposed the resolution to include in the November referendum the cost of a new - rather than a renovated - Central Library.
Needless to say, I'm disappointed for numerous reasons. Max Eternity is, um, pissed. The most obnoxious thing about the FCC decision is what Commissioner Riley mentioned - there was a two year master process involving public input, and then that process gets circumvented at the last minute. Why go through the process in the first place?

The AJC coverage of a $275 million bond referendum is atrocious. I'm still not certain how much money in the bond referendum is intended for a new Central Library, $50m or $84m. There will probably be one more article before the election that will inform people just enough about the issue so they are confused. There is an excellent op-ed today about the Central Library in the AJC, despite the fact that I can't find an article about the commission meeting. There is also a blog posting relating to the op-ed, with some comments.

One comment notes that GSU could buy the Central Library for its School of Music. GSU is probably the only realistic buyer at this point, although that certainly could change. Maybe some some wealthy benefactor will decide to start the Atlanta version of the Guggenheim (yeah, hold your breath on that one). That would at least be an appropriate use. There is an empty lot next to the Central Library that combined might make the property interesting from a redevelopment perspective, although demolition costs would be ridiculous. [update: I was incorrectly thinking of a lot one block away.]

At this point I should state that I'm not exactly irate over this issue. Disappointed is a better word. What a waste of money and real estate a new library will be. There is no plan to demolish the existing building, and if it can be adapted into something useful then that certainly takes the edge off. I just think the whole plan is half-baked, arrogant, and irresponsible. Its a shame, because I'll probably vote against the bond referendum that I would otherwise be inclined to support.


  1. The library building could present an attractive option for the National Health Museum or the College Football Hall of Fame, neither of which have found a site but have both set their sites on being in Downtown Atlanta. Using an existing (and iconic) building could reduce the massive fundraising that would otherwise be required for both museums.

  2. These are the types of buyers that the library is hoping to find, but I don't think they are likely.

    The National Health Museum seems set on being located around Centennial Park. If I were them, I'd build a smaller structure with less money rather than move away from a park location, if possible.

    The College Football Hall of Fame hasn't decided to move, as far as I know, but if they do I don't think a brutalist architecture style is going to fit with their marketing. Further, the pitch for moving to Atlanta undoubtedly centers around the growing Centennial Park area.

    So the reasons the Library wants to move to the park are the same reasons that they will have a hard time finding a buyer for an institutional building.

  3. Although I thought the Guggenheim comment was hilarious, and I see you are fervently following the issue. Doesn't the city have more pressing issues concerning planning and development than a library (albeit it's designation as the Central one)?


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