By Joe Earle
A decision on the location of a new Brookhaven library remains a year or so away, the library system’s director said recently.
“We should be coming to a decision about which direction to go by early next year,” library system Director Darro Willey said.
The problem: The library system’s first choice for a library location is a proposed transit-oriented development near MARTA’s Brookhaven station. But MARTA officials say that project is stalled due to the transit agency’s financial troubles and the current economy.
“Right now, because of our budget situation, we’re not moving it forward. And because of the economy,” said Cheryl King, MARTA assistant general manager for planning.
MARTA officials say they intend to pursue plans for the Brookhaven development, just not now. “It’s definitely not dead,” said Jason Ward, senior development associate for MARTA. “We’ve taken more of a planning approach, waiting for the market to turn.”
The transit agency has a $3.6 million grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission to build a parking deck for the facility, but must spend an equal amount of its own money on the project. Building a multi-million-dollar parking deck would not be a good move at a time the agency is being forced to cut service to save money, MARTA officials said.
“We’re hopeful, but it’s contingent on so many things – some type of rebound in the sales tax and some type of rebound in the development market,” King said. “We’re also hopeful these things will turn around.”
Willey said library officials have decided to put their Brookhaven expansion plans on hold until next spring to see what MARTA decides to do. After that, he said, library officials will start looking for an alternate plan.
“Our preferred solution is to go into the MARTA ‘town center,’ ” Willey said.
The backup plan, he said, is to build a new library at the site of the present Brookhaven library branch at the intersection of Druid Hills and Happy Valley roads. “Our fall-back position is the current site,” Willey said.
Library officials plan to replace the current 6,800-square-foot library branch with a 10,000-square-foot. The library system has $2.9 million from a recent bond issue to pay for the new branch building, Willey said.
One reason library officials hope to move the branch to the MARTA development is to find room to build the new building in a single floor, Willey said.
The present Brookhaven branch library is two stories. It is located on a 1.2-acre site, Willey said, and a new branch library building at that site could require two stories, too. It could be designed so that most public spaces were on the main floor. “It would be a design challenge, but it could be done,” he said.
Willey said the board checked out another possible site near Osborn Park that has been promoted by some Brookhaven residents. But library officials now have no plans to relocate the library branch to the site, in part because it is being used for the DeKalb Services Center, a day and work support center for people with developmental disabilities. “The board looked at that [site] and evaluated that and it was a viable site if it were vacant,” Willey said.
But library officials prefer to wait and see when MARTA moves ahead with developing property near the transit station. If there’s no movement by next spring, library officials will reconsider their options, he said.
“The only thing we can count on is the site we’ve already got,” Willey said, “which, as a location, is not a bad site, because it’s a fairly busy street.”