NORMAL — The new Normal Public Library is almost ready for its close-up — and an unusual close-up at that.

The library plans to host a community open house in May to show off a near-complete schematic design of its proposed new home, complete with a three-dimensional model navigated with a video game controller.

As a schematic design, the model might differ greatly from what residents may see built on a site south of the railroad tracks in uptown Normal in four or five years, but it's intended to show what's possible there, given officials' goals.

OPN Architects of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, showed five possible designs to the library board Wednesday to get feedback and merge three before the open house, said library Director Brian Chase.

"What unites them is very open plans with a lot of natural light. (We're) trying to use the site in a way that allows for a really good library but also allows for a lot of future development, and also that natural connection between the library and uptown," he said.

Diagrams shown Wednesday imagined the building as an anchor of the future "Uptown South" district, north of future development that's adjacent to Phoenix Avenue and south of a park-like area adjacent to the railroad tracks.

Officials imagine a two-story building with circulation and children's areas on the first floor, adult services and programming areas on the second, and a partial third with access to a rooftop garden. The building could also house a "mobile branch," a slimmed-down version of Bloomington's Bookmobile.

After getting public feedback on the design so far, OPN will finish the schematic design, possibly in May, and deliver an estimated cost for the facility.

"The next phase is to work with our foundation to determine how much the foundation can raise toward the project. ... I think that'll take place over the summer," Chase said. "Then we would get into a capital campaign. The foundation would try to raise private funding for a new facility."

A 75,000-square-foot building was estimated at $20.6 million last year, but designs presented last month listed the building at 105,000 square feet.

Bradd Brown, a principal with OPN, said it's not unusual for a schematic design like this one to be finished well in advance of construction.

"I think there's some things you want to wait on like what's going on with the underpass," he said, referring to one possible way they town may use to connect areas north and south of the tracks.

The current library, 206 W. College Ave., is too small at 45,000 square feet, has too little convenient parking and is too inflexible, library officials have said, leading them to consider a replacement.

OPN is doing early architectural, engineering and urban planning work for the future library under a $297,000 contract approved by the library board in September. The firm could be involved in future work on the project as well.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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