Heavy equipment and concrete drain pipes hidden in a corner of a downtown Carrboro parking lot on Wednesday hinted at the impending construction of an expected South Branch library and cultural center for decades.
So far, the work has only closed part of the city lot at 203 S. Greensboro St., near Open Eye Cafe. The city will notify the public about two weeks before the lot is finally closed, a news release said Wednesday.
The city and Orange County are working together to build the three-story library and cultural center, as well as a 171-space parking lot and approximately 70 bicycle parking spaces.
They launched the project in May and expect the work to take about a year and a half.
The change will be significant for Roberson Street, which runs between Open Eye Cafe and the parking lot. The street has been a must for those wanting to avoid the busy East Main and Weaver streets. Very few companies have settled on the short stretch.
But in a few years, the building will be part of a new community and cultural corridor, within walking distance of historically African American and refugee communities, the ArtsCenter and programs of El Centro Hispano, Club Nova, the Interfaith Council for the Social Action Service and the Orange County Literacy Council.
The changes could bring thousands of people downtown to shop and dine at local restaurants, officials said.
It will also provide opportunities to collaborate with The ArtsCenter, a nonprofit arts organization with a regional reach that has been in Carrboro for more than 40 years, they said.
At one point, ArtsCenter officials considered moving to the new cultural center, but instead opted for a new, stand-alone house.
In June, Carrboro City Council approved the ArtsCenter’s plan to renovate a former UNC office building, located near the Libba Cotten bike path, at the opposite end of Roberson Street from the 203 South Greensboro project. This work is also in progress.
Project details, cost
The cost of the nearly 50,000 square foot project has nearly doubled over the past decade, from $24 million to $42 million. It will be paid for with a combination of cash and debt financing.
The governments also secured a $48,552 Duke Energy Smart Saver Custom Energy Efficiency Incentive Grant and a $40,568 Orange County Community Climate Action Grant to add solar and green roof functionality. .
Other green building features include stormwater control measures, natural lighting, and a state-of-the-art heating, air, and ventilation system.
Carrboro is providing the land and will pay approximately 45% of the shared costs. Each government will pay for fixtures, furniture and equipment – as well as annual running costs – for its share of the space. The county estimated its first year of operating costs at $537,670 in the first year. Carrboro expects its annual costs to be around $80,000.
The building’s tenants, in addition to the library, will include Carrboro’s recreation, parks and cultural resources department, community radio station WCOM, and spaces for teens, performances and meetings for the public.
The building will also establish a permanent home for the Orange County Skills Development Center, which in recent years moved from the county building at 503 W. Franklin St. to rented space in the Europa Center.
Where can I park?
The project will eliminate 88 public parking spaces, and the city has negotiated with downtown business owners for additional parking spaces during construction.
A map of available public and private car parks is available online at tinyurl.com/3xwwnzbp.
How to get updates
This story was originally published August 11, 2022 10:09 a.m.