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Friday, May 24, 2024

Pender County to revisit plans for multimillion dollar library

Pender County is looking to build a new library in Hampstead that would be double the size of the current one. (Courtesy photo)

PENDER COUNTY — Pender County is looking to build a new library in the Hampstead area to replace the current branch and accommodate the community’s growth.

Library director Allen Phillips-Bell will present a plan to the Pender County Board of Commissioners during Monday’s meeting. Included will be a request to put out a call for bids to find an architecture firm.

Plans call for a library that is double the size of the current 7,800 square-foot Hampstead branch, which would be a multimillion dollar investment, according to Phillips-Bell’s proposal and a recent engineering estimate. It would be constructed on the 9.5-acre tract of land where the Hampstead Annex is.

County staff is looking to utilize some current funding sources, including roughly half-a-million raised by the Topsail Township Friends of the Regional Library.

Once complete, the 14,000-square-foot library would be slightly larger than the main branch in Burgaw, around 13,000 square feet. It would also allow for future expansion of up 6,000 additional square feet. Phillips-Bell said the Hampstead branch receives more visitors, adding to the need for expansion.

“In the past, we’ve had to turn families away who would come to children’s programs because the space we have is just not large enough,” he explained. “We’ve avoided overly marketed programs because it could attract too large of a crowd.”

With more space, Phillips-Bell hopes to incorporate additional programs and provide more shelving for books. Right now, the Burgaw location often transfers books to Hampstead for customers’ reservations.

The new plan would incorporate more study areas, which Phillips-Bell said is highly requested. The location currently does not have sufficient room for additional desks and seating.

Plans for an updated county library have been in the works for 12 years. Initially, the county was arranging to construct a 21,000-square-foot building between the current Hampstead Library Branch and Topsail Elementary School. An architectural design was underway, but the plan hit a few roadblocks: the recession impacted town revenues, and the Army Corps of Engineers deemed the proposed building site unsatisfactory.

The board of commissioners revisited the idea of a new building to replace the Hampstead library, built in 1983. In 2014, it reserved county-owned property specifically for it, next to the current Hampstead Annex. The project is included in the Pender County Capital Improvement Plan FY 2019-2023, which the commissioners approved in June 2018. At the time, construction costs were estimated at $325 per square foot, based on New Hanover County’s library.

In 2020, Wilmington-based civil engineer firm SEPI was hired to assess a new proposed site adjacent to Hampstead Annex, along U.S. Highway 17. 

“The new library would complement the existing annex the county invested in,” county manager Chad McEwen said. “It’s a great repurposing of the property to have more of our facilities on the same tract of land.”

SEPI suggests building the library on roughly 2.5 acres on the northern portion of the property, where softball and baseball fields currently exist.

“We realize we’re losing athletic facilities, but there are plans afoot to expand existing parks in the Hampstead area, as well as countywide,” McEwen said.

The budget includes  plans for the utility department to  install a public water supply on the backend of the property. Replacing the current septic system that serves the annex with an updated 33,000 square-feet would allow usage at the new library as well.

The building entrance would face Highway 17 and a sidewalk would connect to the right-of-way. The new library will feature a partly covered outdoor reading space with landscaping and benches as well.

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