South Branch to include more space for amenities

By: Nico Rubello | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published June 14, 2013

 Clinton-Macomb Library Director Larry Neal speaks at a ceremony for the South Branch relocation.

Clinton-Macomb Library Director Larry Neal speaks at a ceremony for the South Branch relocation.

Photo by Deb Jacques

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Images of billiard balls and the word “Bingo” were still painted on the wall as more than 50 people gathered inside the future home of the Clinton-Macomb library’s South Branch June 10.

The Clinton-Macomb Public Library system last month closed a $1.4 million deal on the former site of Hollywood Video and Slapsticks Billiards on Gratiot north of 15 Mile.

Library officials now expect that the multi-million-dollar transformation of the building from a vacant bingo and pool hall into a state-of-the-art library to be complete by April 2014 — a time frame that coincides with the end of the library’s lease on the current branch in May 2014.

“The South Branch exceeded our expectations on so many levels,” said CMPL President Larry Neal. “We need more room for meetings. We need more computers. We need more room for books. We need more parking. What great problems to have.”

The move, Neal said, would give the South Branch more than twice the space of the 7,400-sqaure-foot building where the branch is located now, just 800 feet north up Gratiot. More space will allow for more computers, private meeting rooms, books and more, he said.

The building has more space than the branch needs, so it will lease out 5,000 square feet and will receive rental income from that.

Once open, library patrons will be able to access private group study rooms, a café, drive-up book return, a family restroom, a computer lab, ample power outlets for people to plug in their laptops and tablets, a drive-up window to pick up items on hold, a digital recording studio and, in response to what one of the topmost complaints, more parking spaces than the current location.

The proposal for the facility also calls for early literacy resources for babies and preschoolers, homework help center for students, and areas to help job seekers.

The building project represents a $5.78 million investment in the community, according to a CMPL statement.

Though the library has seen an approximately 20 percent loss in tax revenues during the last few years, library officials say they believe the investment is the right long-term move for the library. The library board found that current bond rates are at historic lows and construction costs have remained flat during the last seven years because of economic conditions, making it an opportune time to move forward with the project, the statement added.

The June 10 “groundbreaking” ceremony included Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon’s verbal history of district library systems in Clinton Township. Cannon also remarked that the branch may have a positive influence on the neighboring Regional Shopping Center, and suggested that surrounding businesses find a way to attract library patrons to their establishments.

“To have a cornerstone, like this library, is critical for any community,” he said.

Also among those in attendance were township Trustee Ken Pearl and Clerk Kim Meltzer, township Planning Director Carlo Santia, Macomb County Commissioner Joe Sabatini, local school officials and library board trustees, including President Camille Silda.

State Reps. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser, and Tony Forlini, R-Harrison Township and Sen. Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, also presented a Michigan legislative resolution dedicating the library’s partnership and advancements.

Lane said that, given the economic times, it was a tribute that library and township officials were able to “continue to forge forward and bring great jewels like this to Clinton Township, to Macomb County, to Macomb Township, for all to use.”

Neal said a state budget presented to the governor as an increase in state aid to libraries, has an additional $1.4 million for libraries, and an additional $1.7 million in renaissance zone reimbursement funding, which adds thousands of dollars to the CMPL budget next year.

Pat Moran, owner of Moran Chevrolet, also presented the library a “redevelopment award” from the Clinton Township Gratiot Downtown Development Authority.

“Every time there’s a new building that goes up or a new building that gets remodeled, we’re not just supportive — we’re enthused,” Moran said.