Library getting an extreme makeover

Thursday, December 27, 2007
The Cape Girardeau Public Library is being rebuilt under the old roof. (Fred Lynch)

The current state of Cape Girardeau's library expansion may seem shocking.

All but two small sections of the library's exterior walls have been removed. What remain are concrete columns holding the library's roof. Two rooms, which are scheduled for demolition in the near future, are left.

"We kept one room for heat and the other room for temporary electric," said Brad Zoellner, the site supervisor for Kiefner Brothers Inc., the company responsible for expanding the library at 711 N. Clark Ave.

"It's startling," said Betty Martin, Cape Girardeau public library director. But nothing has changed from the original plans she used in convincing voters to nearly double the city's library tax. The library tax, which is drawn from property taxes, translates to $72.16 a year to the owner of a home valued at $120,000.

"Some people were questioning why it was going to cost so much to add on, but I told them, this is a complete renovation and an addition," she said.

Zoellner said the radical demolition is not common -- this is the first he's seen in years -- but necessary in this case.

The south, north and west walls needed to come down to accommodate extensions to the building, he said.

The windowless east wall is destined to have 12 windows.

"We could have kept some small parts of the east wall," he said. "But those are pretty small pieces of the puzzle."

He said it made sense to remove the east wall so the building's future brick work would match.

On Wednesday, Zoellner's crew kept busy pouring the cement footings for the building's southern expansion.

The construction will double the size of the library. In addition to new walls and rooms, the building is getting new plumbing and a new heating and cooling system. Workers were able to preserve eight trees by transplanting them farther away from the building.

Martin said library officials considered relocating and building from scratch, but after a series of focus group meetings "we had the feeling the public would not want us to move," she said.

Completely demolishing the Clark Avenue building "would have cost us even more" than the current extreme renovation, she said.

The cost of the entire project, including the library's temporary location at 301 S. Broadview St., Broadview, is estimated at $8.9 million.

335-6611, extension 127

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