Library Project Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the mixed-use library project and where did the idea come from?

When considering the future of library service for Marion, the Library Board of Trustees identified three basic needs:

  • The need for a new kind of flexible library space, to meet 21st century library needs, capable of integrating technology and traditional services, and quickly adapting to change;
  • The need to make the library the centerpiece of Uptown Marion’s identity and future; to take advantage of the traffic the library draws, turn it into activity and commerce, and drive economic development;
  • The need to add taxable value to the community in order to contribute to the funding of expanding library services.

To solve the problem of providing the kind of library Marion needs and to meet expectations for adding community value, the Board hit on the innovative idea of a mixed-use facility.  It issued a Request for Qualifications to developers and selected Ryan Companies of Cedar Rapids as a development partner.

Ryan proposed a mixed-use development that in addition to the library would include market rate rental (non-income based) housing and a retail component. A specialty grocery would be ideal to sustain the residential component. The primary goal of the project is to ensure that Marion has excellent library service, but a mixed use development also provides a way to leverage private investment into a public good and save taxpayer money.

Is it true that the library project is going to cost the City $28 million?

No, the total value of the mixed-use project is expected to be about $28 million. The library component of the project is expected to cost about $12 million to build, but the City’s cost will be about $10 million, possibly less depending on the outcome of a capital campaign.

There will be no up-front costs to the City. The mixed-use project, including the library component, is a private project that will be financed entirely by Ryan companies. In addition, Ryan Companies will purchase the existing building.

After completion of the library component according to architectural requirements established by the Library Board of Trustees, the City will enter into a lease-purchase agreement for the library space. The residential and retail components will be subject to City property tax.

Instead of building something new, why don’t you renovate the current building?

The current building has served its purpose and sadly is no longer adequate. Because of Marion’s growth, the library’s popularity, and changing technologies, the current building became obsolete almost ten years ago. In 1995 we planned for future expansion but change and city growth have overtaken those plans.

We conducted a cost-benefit study to determine the value of various options and discovered that it will cost more to renovate the current building than to build new. Libraries no longer need large amounts of space to store large collections just-in-case they are used. Instead they need flexible spaces to accommodate a variety of uses and meet new kinds of needs. We not only need more space; we need a different kind of space.

Early in the project planning process we set a budget limit of $12 million. That figure was chosen for a reason. The average size public library of Marion’s peer cities is 47,000 square feet. Our needs assessment shows that Marion needs a new facility of at least that size.

Based on estimated library construction costs, our cost-benefit study showed that a library of that size would cost about $12 million to build. (Click here for cost-benefit study Executive Summary.)

The cost of renovating and expanding the current facility to 47,000 square feet would be almost $13 million.

If we limit a renovation and expansion budget to $12 million, the same amount as the cost of a new building, we would get a facility of only 43,475 square feet, 3,325 fewer square feet.

A renovation of the current building would create less usable space than a new building, be a tremendous hardship to the continuing operations of the library during construction, and it would cost more than a new building of the same size.

A new library building results in more value and less cost than renovation.

Why does renovation cost more than building new?

A renovation will cost more than building new because of the architectural constraints imposed by the old building. It would be difficult and expensive to integrate the old and new sections. A renovation and expansion would have to be constructed around the current building. This would cause more delays and higher construction costs per square foot. When finished, the result would be unrecognizable as in any way related to the current building.

Renovation also leads to a trade-off of two results, both of which add to the cost.

  • If we renovate and choose to operate out of the current facility during renovation, it will add to the length of time for construction and increase labor costs and patron inconvenience.
  • If we lease temporary space, we can reduce the construction time but it adds the costs of renting the temporary space, and of moving out and back in.

Both options increase the project cost.

Will the current building have to be replaced?

Yes, but its value will not simply disappear. The value of the current building will be realized in the development agreement with Ryan Companies.  No property will be given to Ryan Companies as a result of the project.

Ryan Companies will purchase the current building for at least $2 million, which is a little more than the amount of the bond issue that paid for the current facility. We will get a new $12 million library for a cost of about $10 million, $3 million less than the cost of a renovation; a substantial savings.

Instead of a new building could you build an addition or children’s annex in the 11th St. parking lot, and use the current building for meeting room space or some other purpose?

No, because that is not a cost effective option.  Adequately staffing two buildings would require almost twice as many people as staffing a single building, and increase long-term operating costs. This option would create problems for scheduling and coordinating staff and it would also result in unnecessary duplicated utility and maintenance costs. It would also create confusion and inconvenience for patrons who may not be sure about which services are located in which building.

Do you think the donors who contributed to the capital campaign for the current building will be upset if you build a new library?

No. Nancy Miller, who provided the single largest personal gift to fund the construction of the current building and for whom it is named, is an ex-officio member of the Library Board. She has participated in the planning of the current project since its beginning. Her opinion regarding the project was of prime concern to Board.

At a presentation to the City Council by former library director, now board member and Building Committee Chair Susan Kling, Nancy spoke eloquently and passionately about her support for a new building. Her primary concern is for Marion. She wants its citizens and especially its children to have the best library possible.

Do you plan a capital campaign for the new building?

Yes. We have done preliminary work with David Hoeksema’s firm, Renaissance Group, Inc., to plan for a feasibility study. After we develop design plans we’ll create a casebook and approach potential donors. David helped us plan and conduct the capital campaign for the current facility.

There are several major community projects seeking private capital funding at this time, but as of now we’ve set a fundraising target of $1.5 million. If we do raise that much, it will reduce the public cost of the new building to about $8.5 million.

Will money raised from the Local Option Sales Tax approved in 2013 be used for the library?

Yes. In 2013 Marion voters approved an extension of the 1 cent Local Option Sales Tax. The spending plan provided to the voters for this levy specifies that 30% of the funds raised are to be used for general corporate purposes, including City building projects. Of the funds raised by the sales tax for this purpose the plan calls for $5 million to be devoted to the library project.

How will a mixed-use facility serve library users? Are apartments and a grocery store needed in Uptown Marion? Won’t there be parking problems?

A public/private partnership that yields a mixed-use facility developed by Ryan Companies will serve Marion in ways that benefit both library users and non-users.

A number of economic and urban development factors are at work in Marion.

  • Market studies and consultation with realtors reveal that there is a lack of market rate rental (non-income based) housing in Marion.
  • People with middle and upper middle class incomes are moving to Marion and looking for alternatives to purchasing a home or condo. Residential development requires retail support, especially accessibility to grocery stores.
  • Libraries are known to generate traffic that can contribute to economic development.
  • A mixed-use project that combines library service with market rate rental housing and a grocery can be a powerful combination for stimulating the growth and development of Uptown Marion.
  • A privately owned mixed-use development will add taxable value to the community and provide increased property tax revenue.

Library traffic will drive commercial traffic and vice-versa. The resulting increase in property and sales tax revenue will benefit all Marion citizens. It will benefit library users specifically because it will help to cover the increased operating expenses associated with a larger library that serves more people with more material and that requires more staff.

The situation is win-win. Ryan Companies, a local metro area business, gets the opportunity to realize a good return on its investment, and the City gets a new, larger library at a significantly discounted construction cost. In addition, the library’s future operating costs will be partially funded by future increased tax revenues on the Ryan development.

Parking is already an issue for Uptown Marion and Ryan Companies is committed to contributing to a solution. Free, close-by parking for library users will be maintained. It’s one of our strongest attractions.  Additionally, there are specific needs for retail and residential parking that must be accommodated in order to make the project attractive to prospective renters and businesses.  Those needs will be carefully considered when planning for the overall development.

Are the plans and designs for the project finished? When will they be available for public comment?

We don’t yet have plans and designs. We’ll be working on those through the summer. When we have something ready we’ll post information on the library’s Inspire: Building Marion’s Future website and schedule public information meetings.

We’ve worked with Vernon Research of Cedar Rapids to develop a needs assessment survey that we’ll launch later this month to get public input on the project. We have some good ideas about what needs to be in a new library but we want to test them and make sure we have them right.

We’ve established a Building Committee that includes Trustees and community stakeholders to review the survey results, set up the public information meetings, and oversee design development. That committee is chaired by Susan Kling, former library director and current board member.

Finally we’ve begun the search for an architect. The Marion Public Library Board of Trustees approved a Request for Qualifications. At this time we are not looking for a design proposal. The design process will begin only after consultation between the architect selected for the project and the library board. Rather we want to identify a firm that we believe is qualified to take on the project, shares our design philosophy, and makes it clear it will listen carefully and respond to our needs.