Appleton library project gains momentum with release of new architectural images

APPLETON – Additional images of the new Appleton Public Library were released Thursday, raising the anticipation and excitement of a project that has been mired in budget concerns for more than a year.

Architectural renderings from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) of Chicago continue to show a curved glass pavilion on the south facade, which is designed to integrate daylight and nature into the building.

“A public library is a beacon and symbol of a community’s aspirations, and this design builds on the building’s existing legacy to serve our community’s needs far into the future,” Library Director Colleen Rortvedt said.

The drawings show the library expansion atop the east side of the building at 225 N. Oneida St. The second floor will include a community room for 300 people.

City officials previously acknowledged the revised design of the $40.4 million library isn’t as spectacular as the one that exceeded the budget by at least $14 million in September and was rejected, but they think it will meet the community’s needs and hope it will stay within budget during a period of high inflation, supply chain issues and labor shortages.

When will the construction actually start?

The most recent schedule for the new library calls for bidding the project yet this month and the opening of bids in early June. If the bids are in line with the budget and approved by the Common Council, construction could begin in mid-July.

The timeline is a year behind the original schedule. Supply chain issues and inflation initially caused the architect and construction manager to rethink design elements and materials, and then the first round of bids far exceeded the budget, forcing a redesign of the project.

The old library closed its doors in April 2022 in anticipation of construction and moved to a temporary location in the former Best Buy store at 2411 S. Kensington Drive.

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What will the new library offer?

The new library will consist of 90,150 square feet of space, compared with the existing library’s 86,600 square feet.

The redesign reduced excavation and combined meeting spaces but still meets the library’s objectives for accessibility, connectivity, flexibility, safety and sustainability. The library says the new design will provide:

  • More space for service to children and teens
  • Additional spaces for collaboration and creation
  • Additional study and meeting rooms with varying sizes and accommodations
  • Lower shelving, two public elevators and easier-to-navigate restrooms
  • Improved sight lines for safety and a better browsing experience
  • A geothermal system for heating and cooling and a rooftop solar array for generating electricity
  • More natural light and overall improved lighting
  • A more flexible floorplan allowing for the building to change with community needs
  • Improved efficiency in staff spaces and layout
The new Appleton Public Library will have a commons with plenty of natural light.

Who is paying for the new library?

The $40.4 million budget consists of $26.4 million in city property taxes, $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds and $12 million in private donations.

The nonprofit organization Friends of Appleton Public Library is raising the private money. Its staff have been working behind the scenes to cultivate philanthropic support for the project.

“Plans for the public phase of the campaign will shift to align with the city’s updated timeline, bid process and groundbreaking,” the library said on its website.

Contact Duke Behnke at 920-993-7176 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @DukeBehnke.

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