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Opportunity may exist for new library at 555 Industrial

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POSTED May 12, 2009 1:26 a.m.
There is a solution to Manteca’s Library needs and it might be staring city leaders in the face.
And it can be found at 555 Industrial Park Drive.
Manteca resident Herb Danielsen who has served on the library task force picked up on the city struggling with state rules that have changed since the redevelopment agency bought the former film processing building for future police headquarters. The rule change could require a significant increase in staffing for cities that operate jails even as holding cells. The city is currently reviewing all of its options as existing police facilities are grandfathered and not required to comply.
While the Industrial Park Drive location with its 55,000 square foot building shell seems to be a great site thanks to its proximity to major streets and the Highway 120 Bypass as well as still be centrally located, the city may determine it is more effective to keep police at the Civic Center and shift other city offices off site.
A pre-existing study is being updated taking new rules and costs into account regarding city hall, police facilities, and the corporation yard. What isn’t included in the mix are library needs.
That’s where 555 Industrial Park Drive comes into play.
If it is decided that the former Qualex building won’t work and the city doesn’t move forward with another option of converting it into city offices, then it should be given a serious look at it for a library.
It is centrally located and will still be as the city grows. It is in the central district and it offers the ability to expand in phases.
It could very easily initially start as a combined library and performing arts center. That would give the performing arts community a number of years to establish a base of supporters so down the road when the library expands and the performing arts portion needs to move they can be well established. That would provide the necessary community support that is essential to fund and operate a stand-alone performing arts center.
A library may not qualify for redevelopment agency funding as a police facility does. If that is the case, the city would have to pay the RDA fair market value. It would accomplish killing the proverbial two birds with one stone as the only other option the city has for the Qualex site if it doesn’t use it for police or city offices is to sell it.
The building stood empty for years before the city bought it. It is also likely not to be assessed at top dollar in terms of market value with the number of larger employment centers coming to town.
Some may ask how the city can afford to move forward with such a plan when it hasn’t yet fully addressed the more pressing need of space for police services. The answer is easy. The planning needs to take place now so growth fees adequately reflect the cost. Manteca has been here before. From 1991 to 1998 little was done to address government building needs. Then it was four years into the housing boom before someone realized the fees were woefully inadequate and growth wasn’t paying for what was needed.
The Industrial Park Drive building also offers a possible alternative for builders who aren’t wild about higher fees. They could easily agree to do the remodeling themselves like developers did to the old Ace Hardware store in Ripon that was converted into a library for that community.
The value of the work could be predetermined as it would come off as a credit against growth fees.
The building has plenty of parking and is fairly easy to find.
The same is true of the now vacant Mervyn’s building that could also serve as a combo library-performing arts center.
Using the Qualex building as a library also addresses one option the city is looking at – locating some municipal offices downtown. Having the library move means there can be satellite offices for parks and recreation as well as the finance department at the existing library. There is also plenty of space to make some small community rooms and or dance/exercise rooms that would be perfect for classes plus renting out for private parties.
What better location for such a community center than in Manteca’s downtown focal point – Library Park?
Police and city hall needs must be a high priority but if the old Qualex building falls to the wayside it opens the opportunity to secure a library and performing arts center as well as city satellite offices downtown in one fell swoop.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com



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