Sweet Sparkman Architects awarded design contract for new Venice Library as county approves borrowing $1 million for that phase of work

Interior and exterior improvements continue at Hamilton Building, with ample parking to be provided when the temporary library opens late this summer, staff indicates

A graphic prepared by Sweet Sparkman shows potential locations of the new library on the Cultural Campus. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A graphic prepared by Sweet Sparkman shows potential locations of the new library on the Cultural Campus. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As work continues to transform Venice’s Hamilton Building into a temporary public library for the community, the Sarasota County Commission this week unanimously approved the borrowing of $1 million to finance the design of a new facility on the Venice Cultural Campus to replace the library the board closed at the end of January because of persistent mold problems.

Another borrow is expected before construction begins, a county staff memo says. After the facility is completed, the memo notes, the full amount of those financial transactions “could be refinanced as a bank loan.”

On July 12, the County Commission also unanimously approved a $722,360 agreement with Sweet Sparkman Architects of Sarasota for architectural and engineering services related to the design of the new library. The firm has won awards for a number of earlier county projects, including new structures at Siesta Public Beach.

A staff memo provided to the board says the schedule calls for the construction plans to be completed in the fall of 2017, with the new library to be finished in the fall of 2018.

During her monthly update to the board, provided on July 12, Sarabeth Kalajian, the county’s director of libraries and historical resources, reported that Magnum Builders of Sarasota — which won a $249,436.02 contract with the county in late April to transform the Hamilton Building in Venice into a temporary library — has been “making stead progress during the last nine weeks. … Changes to the appearance are evident each day.”

The Hamilton Building is owned by the City of Venice. Image courtesy Sarasota County
The Hamilton Building is owned by the City of Venice. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Hamilton Building renovations are expected to be completed in September, Kalajian has said.

On June 28, she continued, the Venice City Council voted to provide $42,720 for exterior site improvements, including the striping of parking spaces, placement of safety and directional signage and the installation of a fence to separate a segment of The Legacy Trail from the parking area. That work should be completed on Aug. 13, she added.

In response to Venice resident Lueanne Wood’s public comments that morning indicating a count of only 22 parking spaces at the Hamilton Building, Kalajian said that that number encompasses just those slots immediately around the perimeter of the structure. Additionally, Kalajian noted, about 60 spaces are available in the city’s public parking area between Venice Theatre and the Hamilton Building.

When Commissioner Charles Hines pointed out that county staff also has been working to make it possible for the public to park under the nearby bridge, Kalajian responded that discussions are continuing on that plan.

Hines noted that another 50 or 60 spaces probably could be counted in that space.

After the temporary library opens in the Hamilton Building, she said, Saturday service will resume. The hours of operation will be the same as those previously provided at the Venice Public Library, she added.

As for the new permanent library: Kalajian said County Administrator Tom Harmer and Venice City Manager Ed Lavallee are scheduled to begin discussions on Aug. 3 regarding the exact location of the facility on the Cultural Campus. In response to another public comment, she explained that staff does not know exactly how big the new library will be, but the goal will be to make the most efficient use of the space.

In regard to another public concern, Kalajian explained that she and her staff will work with Sweet Sparkman to host focus groups, starting in August, to deal with various aspects of the new structure. For example, she said, a meeting with the Teen Advisory Board of the Venice Public Library will deal with “very specific questions about teen services.”

Sarabeth Kalajian. File photo
Sarabeth Kalajian. File photo

Other discussions will be conducted with groups such as the Literacy Council of Sarasota County, educators and representatives of the business community, she pointed out, as well as board members of the Friends of Venice Library. The times and meeting dates will be posted on the county’s website dedicated to the Venice Public Library, she said, and members of the public will be welcome to attend, as well.

Altogether, she noted, six community meetings have been conducted to gain the views of Venice residents about their preferences for services and features in the new facility.

As Sweet Sparkman develops concepts for the building, she added, members of the public will be invited to view them and offer comments about whether the renderings adequately capture the ideas they have expressed.

Finally, Kalajian also pointed out that she expected to be back before the County Commission in September to seek approval of the construction management services contract for the new library.