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NORMAL — Stephen and Judy Pitts of Normal were ecstatic about the plans for a new Normal Public Library on Wednesday.

"It's just going to be incredible if it really works out, especially with the green space on top and room to come and read," she said. "If the library ends up looking like they say it's going to — I mean, I already go to the library once or twice a week — I'd practically live there."

The couple were among more than 100 people at an open house at the current library's community room. Attendees could see diagrams, including a 3-D rendering attendees could navigate with an Xbox controller, and talk to the staff members and architects behind the preliminary design for a library to be built in the planned "Uptown South" district by 2021.

The current library is too small, has too little convenient parking and is too inflexible, library officials have said, leading them to consider a replacement.

The new building would more than double the space from 45,700 square feet at the 206 W. College Ave. library building to 94,000 square feet to 99,000 square feet. It would more than triple the seating area to 41,000 square feet and offer seven times the community space, at 22,000 square feet, and study space, at 3,300 square feet.

The phase one design also includes 215 parking spaces for the library.

Proposed site plans show a phase one in which the library would replace the City Hall Annex and Normal Police Department south of the railroad tracks, followed by a possible parking deck next to the tracks and new buildings to the south.

The library itself is pictured as 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 floor with access to a rooftop garden. It also could house a "mobile branch," a slimmed-down version of Bloomington's bookmobile.

The designs are still preliminary and subject to change, Library Director Brian Chase has said. In addition to verbal comment, staff members took written comment cards from the public Wednesday.

The next and final step in the $297,000 contract between the library and OPN Architects, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, firm designing the new building, is a cost estimate. Previous estimates topped $20 million and were for smaller facilities.

OPN also plans to add more details to several images of the design to be used for marketing purposes, including fleshing out the section where a railroad underpass may be built next to Uptown Station.

Chase said in March that the library's foundation will look at the design and discuss how to use it to raise money for the building.

Stephen Pitts acknowledged the library probably will be be expensive but said it's likely to attract a lot of private money. He added it's valuable to both kids and adults.

"You can't go wrong with a library. It's an important part of a community," Judy Pitts said.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh



Pantagraph Government Reporter

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