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Architects Presenting Costs for Santa Cruz Library and Garage

Councilmembers will hear cost details for downtown mixed-use project

One of many renderings for a new mixed-use library building.

The next chapter in the ongoing story of Santa Cruz’s downtown public library is happening Tuesday, June 2, at 4:30pm.

Architecture firm Group 4 will provide the latest information on two options for a mixed-use library on the current site of the farmer’s market parking lot. Under this scenario, the market would likely move to a different parking lot on Front Street, a block and a half away, where it would be given a permanent pavilion.

In 2018, the city’s Downtown Library Advisory Committee unanimously voted to support building a brand new mixed-use library project on a city-owned lot. The plan was to have a library on the first floor. Up above would be several hundred parking spaces as well as space for housing or offices. The City Council agreed with the direction, but the concept of a new parking garage rankled anti-car environmentalists, who want to see the city renovate the library at its current site.

Later that year, two Santa Cruz candidates—Justin Cummings and Drew Glover—ran for City Council. They won their elections in November of 2018, giving a new council majority to the town’s anti-garage political faction. In 2019, that new majority directed city staff to halt all work on the library and garage mixed-use project. Soon after, three city councilmembers—Donna Meyers, Justin Cummings and Sandy Brown—formed a subcommittee to study how best to spend money from a 2018 Santa Cruz County library bond measure.

After a few months of subcommittee meetings, the city hired architecture firm Jayson Architecture, which gave two presentations on how the existing library could be renovated. In his talk, the group’s founder architect Abraham Jayson recommended knocking down part of the first floor of the building.  

After that, supporters of a brand new library, constructed from the ground up, wanted their own renderings and pictures of how the library might look, according to their own vision. For that effort, the city chose Group 4, which gave its initial presentation May 7. Group 4 laid out two options, each one an iteration of the same idea. In one option, the upper stories of the project would have parking surrounding housing on all sides. The other option calls for parking on one side of the building’s upper stories, with housing going on the other side. Both plans would have a first-floor library. The upcoming meeting on Tuesday will include a final cost estimate, funding sources and stakeholder input.

One thing is for sure: The delays have been expensive. Other Santa Cruz County communities have been spending their bond money. The Felton Library opened earlier this year, and other communities, like Capitola, have broken ground on construction.

The delays add up. Jayson said this past October that construction costs had been rising 8-10% per year for a full decade. “That’s like compounding interest,” he explained.

The “good news,” he added, was that the rate of construction cost increases would likely go down to 5-6% per year.

The Zoom meeting on options for the library’s future will be Tuesday, June 2. The Zoom link to join is https://zoom.us/j/93714814445?pwd=N1JrZU53YkRmZnhabExsTFNvdTdGUT09, and the password is 848926. For more information, including how to join by phone, visit the city’s website.

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