Tweens will soon have a new reason for visiting the mall: It’s a learning experience.
Sarasota County commissioners approved a 25-month leasing contract with Sarasota Shoppingtown LLC Nov. 13, to temporarily house the Gulf Gate Library in Sarasota Square Mall. It will be in a 20,092-square-foot space next to JCPenney, and kitty-corner to an indoor ice rink.
“We started looking at the mall for a variety of reasons,” said Sarasota County General Manager of Libraries Sarabeth Kalijian. Those include the 1.5-mile distance to the current Gulf Gate library location, ample parking and the chance to lure mall-goers who may not frequent area libraries.
“Those of us who are public-library fans can underestimate the number of people who don’t take advantage of them,” Kalajian said.
The county’s $5,400 monthly lease runs from December through January 2015, which is months after the forecasted completion of the new Gulf Gate Library. Staff expects construction of the new library to begin in February and take approximately 18 months, but they chose a longer lease term to allow for project delays.
“We feel that we put in ample additional time,” said County Land Acquisition Manager John Herrli, who worked with Kalajian to find the temporary space.
The pair visited some sites that matched the search criteria (75 available parking spaces, at least 8,000 square feet of space, within two miles of the current library and near public transportation), but found commercial-property owners unwilling to sign a lease for less than three years. Of the roughly six sites Herrli considered, most were combinations of single spaces to meet the square footage requirements.
The county can employ economy of scale to save on staff and operational spending with such a large space, Herrli said. And the price was the lowest of the sites considered.
“I gave him a number, quite frankly, that I thought was less than they would probably take,” Herrli said.
But, representatives from Sarasota Shoppingtown LLC accepted the offer, which allows for the county to sever the contract after 18 months. Herrli was surprised at the flexibility of the firm that owns the property, especially allowing the Friends of Gulf Gate Library to operate within the space.
County staff currently estimates the cost of the new library to be $10.09 million, of which $3 million has been appropriated; the remainder is earmarked in the 2013 fiscal year budget. The cost of maintaining the temporary location is budgeted until the 2014 fiscal year, according to a memo from Kalajian to commissioners.
Library staff may conduct surveys of temporary library users to determine the library system’s strength and how to generate public interest, Kalajian said.
Kalajian said staff hasn’t picked the date when the current library would close, so there is no estimate for when the temporary spot will be operational.
Information technology employees will need to outfit the mall space for connectivity, and movers will need to move the library’s entire collection to the new location, Kalajian said.
“That’s a pretty big job,” she said.
Gulf Gate Project
April 2011 — County commissioners choose architect Harvard Jolly Inc.
September 2011 — County commissioners approve new library site
December 2011 — County commissioners approve design and construction phase
January 2012 — Public meetings begin
June 2012 — County commissioners approve initial library design and choose Willis A. Smith as construction manager
January 2013 — Demolition of current library begins
February 2013 — Construction begins on new library