Summit County Commissioners: Library, community center, preservation and more through creative partnership
Karn Stiegelmeier, Dan Gibbs and Thomas Davidson
The Board of County Commissioners would like to share a few facts on its decision to expand the South Branch of the Summit County Library system and to partner with the town of Breckenridge in the Harris Street/Old CMC building renovation project.
Several years ago, the Summit County Library Board, community members and library staff began discussions regarding the size and adequacy of the current library facility located off Airport Road adjacent to the justice center complex. The south branch, serving Breckenridge and Upper Blue Valley, is the smallest of the three county libraries at just 3400 square feet and had been experiencing steady increased usership – up from 32,000 visits in 1996, reaching 86,000 visits last year. By any measure this facility was over crowed and lacked adequate amenities. A space-needs analysis was commissioned in 2010 to determine the future growth requirements for the justice center campus (sheriff and probation offices, jail and courts) including a detailed assessment of the south branch library building. Sizing estimates, options for expansion and renovation of the existing library, as well as construction of a new library were studied. This analysis recommended the relocation of the current library, preferably to a more central location in Breckenridge and remodeling this facility for use by the district attorney’s offices and probation department. Numerous sites were then evaluated to host a new library building with a nearby property owned by the county on Airport Road eventually selected. This was a thorough process over a two-year period including many community members attending numerous presentations and meetings and site visits to libraries around the state. The effects of the “digital revolution” on space needs was also analyzed, indicating modern libraries would need less space for books stacked on shelves and instead space devoted to new ways of interacting with information. The trends pointed to libraries evolving into research and learning facilities and filling the role of cultural centers rather than just book repositories. These trends were carefully evaluated and incorporated into the conceptual library design.
When the Breckenridge Town Council suggested the possible relocation of the south branch to the old CMC building, a unique and exciting opportunity was presented to achieve many of our mutual goals. The town wanted to see the old historic building properly renovated and used for the widest range of public and community uses possible. The county viewed this as an ideal location for the library – centrally located in the core of town with ample existing parking and pedestrian access. We each saw the potential to create a cultural or community center by joining the Speakeasy Movie Theater, library, community meeting and special event rooms, kitchen facilities and additional office spaces that will be available for other community organizations in the renovated building. An important additional benefit of such collaboration is the savings of millions of tax dollars; $9-$10 million if the Town and County went separate ways and completed two projects at different locations or $6-$7.5 by working together in the CMC building. There had been some debate as to who gained the most from this truly perfect example of intergovernmental cooperation and the answer is simple. It is the citizens and tax payers of Breckenridge, Blue River, the Upper Blue River Valley and indeed the entire county who are the winners.
The county commissioners are extremely grateful and extend its sincere thanks to the Breckenridge Town Council and staff for their vision and willingness to offer this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We look forward to working together and a successful renovation and revitalization of this community gem.
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