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New chapter? Westport Library directors refocus on $30M reconstruction plan

Published 6:25 am, Thursday, September 19, 2013

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  • Henry Myerberg, principal with HMA2 Architects, makes a presentation Wednesday to the Westport Library Board of Directors about the $25  to $30 million proposed reconstruction of the library.  WESTPORT NEWS, CT 9/18/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Henry Myerberg, principal with HMA2 Architects, makes a presentation Wednesday to the Westport Library Board of Directors about the $25 to $30 million proposed reconstruction of the library. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 9/18/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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The Westport Library Board of Directors has renewed its review of plans for a major reconstruction project that could cost between $25 and $30 million.

Having completed the "concept design" for the library reconstruction more than two years ago, architect Henry Myerberg, principal with HMA2 Architects, shared details about the next phase of the project with the directors Wednesday night.

"It's an evolution," he said, "and part of what I want to talk about is next steps ... which would be a schematic design."

Myerberg was joined by lawyer Larry Weisman, who offered to volunteer his time to see the project through the approval process by town boards and commissions.

Two and one-half years ago Myerberg had put the price tag at $25 million, but said increases in construction costs would likely have boosted costs 5 percent for each year since then, with additional expenses likely beyond that. Producing the schematic design and site plans to move forward for approval, he said, would cost around $500,000.

The plan, which originally called for 85,000 square feet, but has been scaled back to 65,000. In would involve moving the building's current footprint 30 feet over toward Jesup Green.

"This is a very compact plan," Myerberg said.

The board, meanwhile, discussed the potential fundraising needed for the project.

"The atmosphere for fundraising now and going forward should be much better," said Jocelyn Barandiarian, senior vice president of the board. "Hopefully, that will make up for the fact that we have this rise in construction costs."

"People are always thinking that the library is funded by the town," noted Holland Dunn, board member, but the town covers only a portion of its operating expenses. She noted that, should the reconstruction project go forward, it would require efforts to attract larger contributors.

"It's a different level of fundraising, is what I'm hearing," she said.

Regarding the approval process, Weisman told the directors, "We have 12 steps to make to get all the permits and approvals that we need. Some of them can be done simultaneously ... and I'm guessing that it's going to take us 10 months to get through that."

He added that because of existing conditions on the property, there are already so-called "violations" of regulations that would require waivers from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"The biggest problem we're going to have in terms of a site plan is parking," he said. "We're not going to be able to meet their parking standards," he said, referring to town zoning requirements. "We may have to do a little fancy footwork around that," he said, "and I have an idea."

Weisman also said the board might want to consider having the project financed through town bonding. "The town has very good credit, as you know, and the rates are low," he said.

"We're going to have to decide as a board when we want to get going," said Mike Guthman, board president. "The conversation will continue over the next few months."

Either way, he noted, it would be at least two years "before we put a shovel in the ground, and then another two years before it's completed."