The Library, Public/Private Partnerships, and the Next Charette

Recently, I was asked a question by someone who was rather shocked by what she thought was the answer.

She said she had heard that the City was going to give away the current library to Ryan Companies,  that they were going to own the new library, and that the City was going to have to lease it from them. She asked if that was true.

None of this true.  The City is not going to give the current library to Ryan Companies, and Ryan is not going to own the new library and make the City rent it from them.

Ryan Companies does want to build on the land occupied by the existing library building, but to do that they will buy the building from the City for its appraised value. That’s likely to be in the neighborhood of 2 to 3 million dollars.

Ryan Companies is going to finance the entire mixed-used development, including the library component, and they will charge the City for the cost of building the new library. We will pay them back though what’s called a lease-purchase agreement, but that agreement will have a specified and limited term. At the end of the term, the City will have paid off Ryan’s library construction costs and the library component will be owned by the City, unless for some reason we don’t want it.

A lease-purchase agreement with Ryan Companies works like a mortgage, only instead of borrowing money on the bond market and paying it back with interest, we pay only the cost of construction. Actually, and here’s the best part of working with Ryan to build a mixed-use facility, Ryan Companies is going to pay for almost half of the cost of building the new library.

First off, whatever the cost, they give us a construction credit, which is basically a discount on the price of new building equal to the sale price of the current building. Then, after they build the entire mixed-use development, they owe the City property tax on the residential and retail components. The City collects that tax and turns around and uses it to make the lease-purchase payments.

It’s very possible that the only public money the City will have to spend on building the new library is the $5 million of the Local Option Sales Tax already allocated for this purpose. And the good thing about that is that most of it is collected from people who live outside of Marion but buy things here.

This approach to financing the cost of the new library hardly affects Marion taxpayers at all, except for one taxpayer—Ryan Companies. They’re willing to do this because they believe the risk is worth it, and that they will make a good return on investment from the residential and retail parts of the project.

In the end, this is what public/private partnerships are all about—finding ways for government and business to cooperate for the benefit of the community.

***

On November 11, 2015, the Marion Public Library Board of Trustees will host a public charette at the library at 5:15 p.m. to solicit input on the design of the new library. A charette is an interactive public meeting intended to generate ideas, suggestions and feedback. The library’s architect, Joe Huberty of Engberg Anderson, has already led two design charettes. The input from those sessions informs what he’ll bring to the third session, which will focus on the exterior design of the building.

“The next charette will be an important step in the design process,” said Library Director Doug Raber. “Our approach is based on the idea of critical regionalism. Local history and context have to drive design. The library has to look like it belongs in Marion and nowhere else. The goal is to design a building that is an expression of Marion’s character.”

During regular business hours on November 11th the library will be closed for a staff training day, but the doors will be open at 5:00 p.m. for the public to attend the charette. The meeting will be held in the large meeting room of the Marion Public Library, located at 1095 6th Avenue.