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Wichita Will Build $37 Million 'Advanced Learning Library'

A state-of-the-art new central library is coming to downtown Wichita.

City Council gave final approval Tuesday for the $37 million dollar project to be built near the corner of 2nd Street and McLean.

Council members signed off by a 5-to-2 vote on the final design and construction budget for what’s being called an “advanced learning library."

Credit Courtesy Wichita Public Library/GLMV Architects

Tom Montgomery of GLMV Architecture unveiled plans for the new library’s building design, public art features, outside landscaping and parking areas. The 105,200-square-foot, two-level building will include sections for technology, teen/youth, and children. There will also be areas for non-fiction, genealogy/local history, community meeting areas, a café and classrooms.

The library’s staff will have one centralized location in the new building.

Montgomery says the public will have access to 70 percent of the space in the new library, compared to about 45 percent of public areas in the current facility.

The city amended its original bonding resolution of $30 million by increasing it to $36,690,000 to include the construction costs and land acquisition from 2008.

Credit Wichita.gov
Cost estimates for the bond for funding the new library.

Council Member Bryan Frye supported the project, saying it’ll be Wichita’s next big game-changer.

"A community that invests in its citizens with education, accessibility, technology and quality of life is a community that is moving forward…especially as we compete with other communities," Frye said.

Council members Pete Meitzner and Jeff Blubaugh voted against the library project. Blubaugh says he’s concerned about the annual operating costs and lack of community support.

"Over the last two or three years of discussions, I’ve heard is that the people in my district are not supportive of this new library," Blubaugh said.

The construction estimates for the new library total $34,674,683, which is above the $33,000,000 budget. Library officials say there are nine alternates built into the plan--such as using different materials in the landscape--that can be implemented as needed to keep the project within budget.

In October, the project size and budget increased after the library received a $3 million gift from the Wallace Charitable Foundation. It will be used for future expansion of the library's Children’s and Research pavilions.

Credit Courtesy Wichita Public Library/GLMV Architects
A rendering of the children's pavilion in the future advanced learning library.

The Wichita Public Library Foundation has raised about $5.5 million in private donations to offset the city’s spending for the new library. The remaining $2.5 million of its $8 million dollar capital campaign is expected to be used for non-capital program and service enhancements. The new facility will cost about $500,000 a year to operate--that includes 11 new positions, utilities and building maintenance.

City Manager Robert Layton says the long-term future of the current central library on South Main Street will be decided later this year when city council maps out a master plan for Century II and convention facilities.


Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.