A new future for the Northeast Library and Central Avenue

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No less than 40 concerned Northeast residents gathered together at the Salvation Army amidst the first snowstorm of the year. They gathered to discuss the lifeblood of Northeast: Central Avenue.

Councilman Paul Ostrow started the meeting with glowing words: “I feel good about being here. This will become a reality; an incredible and great transformation.”

As the third public community meeting discussing the Central Avenue plan, the ideas given were clear and concise. The changes talked about will take time to be implemented, but now is the time for residents to voice opinions about the future of Northeast.

The first topic on the table was the redesign of the library on 22nd and Central. The 34-year-old Northeast Library will be renovated to strengthen the image of Northeast as well as to provide the best service to the community. Teresa Jensen, Project Manager/Director and Central Avenue Steering Committee member, was present to introduce the topic and Jane Eastwood, Director of External Relations and Partnerships, was available to answer questions.

Feedback from the community reflected the desire for more children- and teen-friendly areas, better lighting, safety features, handicap accessibility, more art, and a quieter atmosphere. Questions raised at the December 1 meeting:

Will there be a café or coffee shop in the library? This was something discussed, but limited funds are better used to improve the library. The library currently has an ‘open-cup’ policy that allows patrons to bring in beverages.

Will there be a second story added? The library is satisfied with the size, but the space needs to be utilized more efficiently.

Will the new library be open more and have more books? The library is currently raising money for a new opening day collection. The hours will remain the same. In addition to new books, the library is expected to get a minimum of 35 new computers.

On December 19 the proposed library plan will be presented to the library board. Here are some new proposed features: The dark glass will be removed and replaced with floor to ceiling window to let in natural light. The pre-existing fireplace will become more of a focal point. Approximately 2,200 square feet will be added to provide ample seating areas and teen areas. A new book drop; the old one goes directly into a janitors closet. The driveway and parking area will be repaired and there will be an upgrade of safety features. The new library will be more energy efficient and will have new landscaping.

Next on the Agenda was the Central Avenue Development Plan. The goals of the plan are to create a center gathering placed on Central Avenue, to redefine and rezone the commercial area, to increase the employment opportunities, to increase the visibility of art, and to create gateways on each side of the Central Avenue corridor. The focus was on three areas, or hubs, of Central Ave.

The first hub on Central Avenue to be improved is the Shoreham Yards area. This area consists of 18 acres of railroad-owned land, which is currently under environmental clean-up. Since residential building is not an option for this site, it could be an employment anchor with office buildings and the green space could be extended all the way to the historic Roundhouse. There is a public meeting on December 10 to discuss the Roundhouse as an important historical asset and ways to encourage the preservation of it.

The second hub talked about was the Arts zone that runs from 18th Avenue to Broadway along Central Avenue. The goal is to improve public access while maintaining the unique grittiness of the area. This gritty ambiance is a perfect place for more nightlife, performances, galleries, bookstores, cafes, and coffee shops. Working with the existing artist buildings, like the Northrup King, the plan would be to preserve the historically significant buildings and art spaces.

The third hub discussed at this Saturday morning meeting had most of the crowd’s attention. The Commercial area has natural boundaries at 29th Avenue and 18th Avenue and three neighborhoods have boundaries in this hub. The proposed center of Central Avenue would be the Lowry and Central intersection. The plan would be to work with tenants, and building owners to improve current businesses, to incorporate more open space in the form of courts, walkways, and bigger sidewalks, and to rezone in order to have taller buildings at this hub. Outreach into the Latino community has started and business owners along Central Avenue were invited to attend meetings, but further outreach is needed.

The next public meeting is on February 7. The Northeast Library will give an update on the progress made with their proposal to the board and the Central Avenue Planning Committee will prepare to submit their plan for approval by the city. Residents of Northeast and Northeast business owners are encouraged to attend.

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