City weighs options for fate of old library building
June 9, 2014
Glenwood Springs City Council will keep its options open to lease the former Glenwood branch library building to an undetermined tenant, possibly as a multipurpose space for nonprofit organizations or a senior center.
But council also wants the option to ask city voters for permission to sell the property, if that is determined to be the better course of action.
Council voted, 5-2, at its meeting Thursday to begin preparing a ballot question for the November election seeking voter approval for the city to negotiate the eventual sale of the property. Under the city's governing charter, any disposal of city-owned property requires a vote of the people.
In the meantime, council will weigh the various proposals for use of the facility and decide later this summer whether to proceed with the election.
"This is a tool that gives us the most flexibility, assuming the city doesn't want to be a landlord," said Councilman Todd Leahy, who expressed reservations about leasing the property as opposed to selling it.
Without voter approval, "our only option is to lease it," Leahy said. "We're just asking voters to let us look at all the options."
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Earlier this spring, the city sought ideas for reusing the 4,500-square-foot building at 413 Ninth St., that reverted to city ownership along with the underlying property after the new Glenwood Springs Branch Library was completed at Eighth and Cooper last year.
Those ideas include a senior center, as proposed by the Garfield County commissioners to provide services and activities for the local 65-and-older population. That could either involve a lease, or the county may be interested in acquiring the property.
Other proposals range from a new museum for the Frontier Historical Society or extra programming space for the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, to offices for the local Salvation Army emergency assistance services, the Garfield County Housing Authority, or general office and meeting space for a coalition of nonprofit human service organizations.
One resident who responded to the city's request for ideas suggested the property should be sold on the open market in order to put prime downtown property back on the tax rolls.
"I realize that for most citizens this may not be their initial first choice," Glenwood Springs resident Bryan Whiting wrote in an email to city manager Jeff Hecksel.
"In my opinion, [the] advantages far outweigh any potential use by a nonprofit or other entity which may be nice, but not the best use of this property," Whiting wrote.
Councilman Ted Edmonds agreed a case can be made for recouping the costs the city incurred to buy and convey the new library site at Eighth and Cooper to the Garfield County Public Library District and Colorado Mountain College. The two entities share what's now known as the Cooper Commons building.
"I'm also concerned that there are some ongoing maintenance issues with that building," Edmonds said.
Council members Stephen Bershenyi and Dave Sturges disagreed that the city should move to sell the property. Both said leasing the facility, even for a short term, buys time to consider the long-term future of the property while providing money to maintain the building.
Glenwood Springs resident Sheila Markowitz, along with former mayor and Mountain Valley Developmental Services Executive Director Bruce Christensen, also urged council to hang onto the property.
"I would love to see a collaboration between [nonprofits], with some space for the seniors to use," Markowitz said. Mountain Valley is part of a joint proposal, along with the Advocate Safehouse Project, Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Ninth Judicial District and the Family Visitor Program, to utilize the space for office, programming and meeting space.
Christensen said Glenwood Springs could model its approach around Carbondale's Third Street Center, a converted former school building that is owned by the town but contracted out to a separate management entity that leases space to various nonprofit and for-profit tenants.
Current Mayor Leo McKinney agreed that something modeled after the Third Street Center, but on a smaller scale, "is a really intriguing idea."
"It just has a unique energy to it," he said. "The senior center idea has a lot of value as well, and if we go down that route we may want to convey [the property] to the county.
"We would still need permission from the voters for that," McKinney said.
Hecksel said the old library building may be used by the city in the interim for storage while repairs are being done to the Municipal Operations Center building. Recently, the roof of the library building also had to be repaired, and it's possible a new roof may be needed in the near future, he said.