June 10, 2014

Arlington council gives initial OK to plan to replace library

Arlington council gives tentative OK to incentives for investors proposing to tear down central library and build mixed-use development.

The City Council gave initial approval Tuesday evening for nearly $7.5 million in incentives for private investors who have proposed demolishing the downtown Arlington library and building a mixed-use development in its place.

The vote was 8-0 with Councilwoman Sheri Capehart absent.

For a year, Arlington has been working with Atlanta-based Integral Development and Dallas-based Catalyst Development on a $29 million project that would replace the 40-year-old George W. Hawkes Library, just east of City Hall. Arlington plans to build a $25 million library north of City Hall within two years.

The proposed mixed-use development includes up to 27,000 square feet of office or research space, up to 9,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and up to 268 market-rate apartment units, all wrapped around a parking garage. The investors would lease the land from the city for at least 24 years, with up to three 25-year renewal periods.

“It’s a public and private venture. They are proposing to build this mixed-use development on city land that they would lease from us,” economic development manager Bruce Payne said.

“We want that to happen because they would be introducing a residential product into the city both in its quality and its setting that we don’t have. We need it to be competitive in attracting the kind of workforce we want in the future.”

Most of the proposed incentives — about $4.5 million — would come from property taxes collected in the downtown tax increment reinvestment zone. The council also approved separate economic development agreements for an additional $2.9 million. If the project moves forward, the city would reimburse the developers for qualified expenses.

That money would help the investors pay for a 600-space parking garage, which the city would share with the development, as well as a 90-space surface parking lot and expenses related to tearing down the library and preparing the site for new construction.

Payne said contributing financially to a structured parking garage at the mixed-use development site would save the city from having to build its own parking for the new 80,000-square-foot library.

“We are able keep the costs more or less to the cost of the building,” Payne said. “If we can share the parking and get all the users to contribute to the same facility, that is a positive outcome.”

The 63,000-square-foot Central Library has significant maintenance problems and is too small to offer the services residents say they want, city officials have said.

The new three-story building, which has not been designed, is expected to offer additional room for specialized programming, technology, and library materials and services. The $24.9 million project also includes a public plaza, parking spaces and a 6,500-square-foot building with a combined council chamber and library meeting space.

The Central Library will remain open at least another six or seven months, depending on the developers’ plans, Libraries Director Cary Siegfried said recently.

To fund the project, Arlington will issue $19.5 million in certificates of obligation, which do not require voter approval and are repaid through property taxes. The rest is expected to come from a $4 million grant from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation and $1.3 million from the parks gas well fund. The Arlington Public Library Foundation is expected to raise $3 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment.

The council must vote again on the incentives before they are final and later will vote on the investors’ plan.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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