People who attended a public meeting at the Culture Center last month heard the consultants discuss how the proposed library might fit into their overall plan for the block between Lee and Quarrier streets and Leon Sullivan Way and Dickinson Street.
Their plan eliminated most of the library's parking lot, but added a parking garage in the middle of the block. It also showed a new mixed-use building -- retail and housing -- on the site of the former Holley Hotel, as recently proposed by City Manager David Molgaard.
"They have some concepts we'd like to look at," Engelbert said. "One of the emphases they have is downtown living -- mixed-use retail, living and library all together.
"It's certainly not unheard of. We've looked at that for a long time. Before I came here, we looked at others sharing space with us. The idea of partnering with higher education. WVU has a presence in Charleston. Maybe we could partner with them."
Not everything was good, though. The Imagine Charleston plan pushed the library to the corner of Lee Street and Leon Sullivan, where many of the proposed 102 parking spaces would be located.
"Our big concern is, if they're doing a big parking ramp over here, where is the door?" Engelbert said. "They're expensive to build, expensive to maintain. Are we re-creating the same parking problem we have over here?"
Library patrons have long complained about the lack of public parking spaces around the Capitol Street building, despite the presence of a city parking garage a block away, on Summers Street.
"I think the exciting thing is the trend in urban planning is mixed-use," Engelbert said. "Our goal is to build a very beautiful, very efficient urban library. If we can accommodate other interests, other needs in doing that, we're open to considering that."
Library leaders have budgeted $10 million to buy the property they think they need for the new library, and $30 million to build it. Those figures could change.
"That's part of the equation," Engelbert said. "If we analyze our space needs and decide we don't need all the space, it may affect the [building] footprint. We may not need all the land."
Fewer books could lower costs, too. "Book stacks are very heavy, so you engineer floors for 150 pounds per square foot. The floors need to be massively strong. That's why libraries are so expensive.
"If you're changing where you put materials, it changes the way you build the building.
"This is probably a six-month process. The architects [from ZMM in Charleston] will be involved."
After a strong start, the process of raising $40 million for the downtown library and another $7 million for branch library improvements has slowed, Engelbert conceded. He hopes the study will give the project new life.
"We're looking to raise half the money privately, half publicly," he said. "We did very well privately. We have not done well publicly. Part of this is: What do we do? It's time to look.
"Our initial goal was to raise $25 million privately. We're at 18. That's pretty darned good."
Reach Jim Balow at ba...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.