This is an artist’s rendition of the proposed St. Pete Beach Public Library. The first phase of the project is expected to take place in late summer.
ST. PETE BEACH – City officials kicked off an ambitious fundraising campaign Jan. 29 to renovate and expand the existing St. Pete Beach Public Library.
Speaking before a small group of supporters at the library, Administrator Phyllis Ruscella explained the need for the upgrades and Phillip Trezza, vice president of Harvard Jolly architects, outlined the plans for the $2 million project.
“We have an antiquated facility,” said Ruscella. “We’re the second oldest of the 25 libraries in Pinellas County, so we’re due. The roof leaks, the carpet is over 25 years old, the restrooms are old and the furniture is old. Plus, we need updated infrastructure to carry us into the 21st century.”
Plans call for a three-phase reconstruction as money becomes available from donations, city allocations and state grants. Funds are in place for the first phase but fundraising is still necessary for the remainder of the project, Trezza said.
The second phase would be renovations to the public area of the current library interior. It would include up to 24 new computers and additional printers for patron use.
The third phase would be the expansion of the building into the existing parking lot. It would include a large entry area, new restrooms, a large meeting room and storage space.
“We will accomplish as much as we can without interrupting service,” said Ruscella. “It would only be in the final phase that we might have to interrupt service for a couple of months.”
The first phase is scheduled to begin in late summer, Trezza said. It includes a new Story Time room for children, a new staff lounge, a director’s office and an upgraded area for circulation services.
“If there are any leftover dollars, we’ll move the circulation desk to its new location, more forward toward the east door,” said Trezza.
Ruscella said the current 8,200-square-foot library would be expanded to 11,700 square feet.
“We want to buy the rest of the block (to the east) and use it for additional parking and stormwater runoff,” said Ward Friszolowski, owner of Harvard Jolly. “So we’ll be using some of the dollars to lease or buy the land.”
City Manager Mike Bonfield, who was part of a similar project in the early 1990s when he was city manager of Gulfport, said many of the same things that took place with that project will take place with the St. Pete Beach project.
“It was done through fundraising and grants,” said Bonfield. “In 1994, when it reopened, it made a tremendous difference to the community.
“I’m excited about this,” Bonfield continued. “There will be a period of anxiety but once it’s completed, it will be something to be very proud of.”
The library, located at 365 73rd Ave., was built in 1969. It is very popular with residents, attracting between 350 and 600 patrons per day.
Anyone interested in making a contribution toward the new library should call 363-9238. There also will be a donor drop box by the circulation desk. All donations will be deposited in a city account designated for the library building fund.