Updated April 3, 2:30 p.m.
Trustees of the Brookfield Public Library board voted unanimously March 28 to approve a real estate contract to purchase the Brookfield United Methodist Church property, which sits directly across the street from the library at 3541 Park Ave.
And while library officials are cautious in discussing their plans, it seems clear that the church site will eventually become the home of a new and considerably larger main library.
Library officials have been negotiating a contract on the property since October 2011. According to a press release issued following the March 28 decision, the library will buy the property for $615,000, and will use cash reserves for the purchase.
Library board President Dianne Duner told the Landmark last week that the board expects to close on the property in July.
“When [the church went up for sale] it was very logical for us to seriously consider this property,” said Duner. “I’m delighted we were able to make a decision to provide for the future of the library and the services it offers to the community.”
The public will get its first look at what the library board has on the drawing board at three community meetings scheduled for Wednesday, May 16 at 1:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 19 at 10:30 a.m.; and Monday, May 21 at 7 p.m. All of the meetings will be held at the Brookfield Public Library, 3609 Grand Blvd.
Architectural drawings, at least showing building exteriors and landscaping ideas, will be available at that time, Duner said.
“The meetings will also be an opportunity for us to get the opinions of residents of some features we could include, which ones mean the most to residents,” Duner said.
How long might it take before construction of a new library might begin? Not any time in the next year at least, said Duner.
“We’ve discussed a timeline of two to three years out for any building,” said Duner. “We don’t really even own the property at this point.”
While there were few details about the plan in the library’s initial announcement, the Landmark has been able to learn some details about what the future intentions are for the property after talking with library and village officials.
The library has hired an architectural firm, Dewberry Architects, which has already approached the village of Brookfield about applying for a planned unit development, said Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, who is also the village building director.
“The company contacted me for an application,” said Sbiral. “All they said is they wanted to build a building.”
Duner confirmed that the board will seek approval for a planned unit development, a two-part process employed for large-scale developments that meet certain size requirements.
What that new structure might look like is a matter of speculation at this point, because library officials aren’t giving out many details.
One detail that appears to be certain is that a new main library building is being planned for the church property, which comprises six zoning parcels. Its shape, a rectangle, is also more conducive to a library building that the library’s current pie-shaped location.
“Just with the size of the church site, we have enough to build a library to meet the recommended size,” said Duner.
Duner was referring to the American Library Association’s recommendations for libraries serving towns of Brookfield’s population. According to Duner, the ALA’s recommended size for a library for a town like Brookfield is about 35,000 square feet. The existing library is about 13,500 square feet.
What is not clear at this point is what will become of the current library or if the two pieces of property might be joined by having the village vacate a section of Lincoln Avenue, which separates the two parcels.
The library board has considered asking the village to do that, according to Duner. Asked by the Landmark if the board had considered asking the village to vacate Lincoln Avenue in order to build on it, she said, “At present we’re not considering building over the street. We’re looking at having green space between the two buildings.”
But as for what will become of the existing library, Duner said the board isn’t sure.
“We haven’t made that decision yet,” said Duner. “We’re leaving our options open so we’re getting the best value for the dollars we spend.”
A preliminary drawing for the project may be available and up for discussion at a meeting of the library board’s ad hoc building committee on Thursday, April 5 at 7 p.m. at the library.
The library board has been working for years to acquire property for a new library building. In 2007, the board purchased a house in the 3500 block of Arden Avenue and was working to buy several others, but the plan fizzled. The library still owns the Arden Avenue home and is renting it out until a buyer can be found.
There was also an attempt to acquire residential property immediately south of the existing library, but the plan never gained traction with the homeowners there.
Opened in 1986, the current Brookfield Public Library has almost from the beginning drawn criticism – from its small size to its uncomfortable furniture. It has undergone interior renovations several times to try to remedy those issues, the last time in 2009. The architect for that $265,000 project was also Dewberry Architects.