Library expansion moves forward after approval from city council

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 9:13 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire City Council helped the expansion project at L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library move along after voting to approve the site plans and the budget.

The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the renovation of the library’s current space along with an added third floor that will serve as a new 200 seat community room.

“We’re really excited about tonight’s vote, because that will trigger our ability to start to accept bids for construction and those bids will be due April first,” says L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library Director Pamela Westby.

The project five years in the making is one step closer to reality.

“We’re doing a complete renovation of the building which is 45 years old, which includes a complete update of all the systems and the infrastructures,” Westby says. “So everything from the roof line to electrical.”

Westby says the pandemic has highlighted the value of the library.

“It’s really important people have access to the library, and we’ve really found that out during this pandemic. How much people really need that touch point, it’s kind of like a home away from home.”

She says the library will be renovating its current 62,000 square foot building and adding on a new 6,800 square foot community space.

The project will cost around $18.5 million. $11.5 million of that will be funded by the city, while the other $7 million is coming from private donations.

“We’ve made over $6 million so far so we’re just a little ways to go.”

The new building will permanently close down part of Eau Claire Street to make room for geothermal wells that will help the building be more energy efficient, and save nearly $45,000 a year on utilities.

Westby says the new building will also help the local economy, with many of the library’s cardholders being from outside the city.

“A third of our cardholders are outside of our municipality so you can imagine with 10-thousand cardholders how that helps generate economic development.”

During the renovation, the library will temporarily relocate to the buildings by United Health on Mall Drive until the building is ready to open back up in 2022.

Another important part of the future building will be the availability of small group work rooms that can be used for free, Westby says construction will hopefully start in May and wrap up in the fall of 2022.

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