Temporary Venice Public Library expected to open in mid-October in Hamilton Building

Work continuing to choose exact site of new facility on Venice Cultural Campus, county’s director of libraries and historical resources reports

Interior work was completed in the Hamilton Building in late August. Photo courtesy Sarasota County
Interior work was completed in the Hamilton Building in late August. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

The renovated Hamilton Building is anticipated to open as a temporary Venice Public Library in mid-October, Sarabeth Kalajian, director of libraries and historical resources for Sarasota County, told the County Commission on Sept. 6.

Commissioner Charles Hines said he did not know whether any of his colleagues had stopped there recently to check on the progress, but “it looks great, and I think, long-term, the choice of this location [will result in] a building that I think will enhance the city of Venice.”

The county is renting the space from the City of Venice.

Sept. 6 marked the eighth time Kalajian has provided a formal verbal update to the County Commission on the process to create temporary library services and a new facility in Venice since the board closed the public library in January because of persistent problems with mold and concerns about the effects of that situation on the health of patrons, volunteers and county staff.

The majority of the interior renovations of the Hamilton Building were completed in late August, Kalajian noted on Sept. 6 during the board’s regular meeting in Venice. Additionally, “many of the exterior site improvements are completed or are underway,” she said. Among those are installation of safety and directional signage, a bicycle rack, a fence to separate the site from the adjacent bicycle trail and patching of the asphalt in the parking lot, she told the board.

Furthermore, Venice city staff has announced that funding has been included in the city’s 2017 fiscal year budget to provide parking under the nearby bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, Kalajian said. City staff is continuing to work with representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration on that part of the project, she pointed out.

Commissioners — especially Hines — have cited the area under the bridge as a good location for overflow parking for library patrons.

County staff is proceeding to set up shelving and other equipment in preparation for the opening of the library in the Hamilton Building, Kalajian said. Because books, materials and some furnishings will be moved from the current temporary location within the Venice Community Center, she continued, the transition “is being carefully orchestrated to keep the number of closed service days to a minimum.”

Kalajian also explained that an interior air quality test was conducted in the Hamilton Building on Aug. 30. The results were expected back no more than 10 days later, she said; after they have been received, they will be shared with the commissioners and posted on the county webpage devoted to interim Venice library services.

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

In other news: Kalajian reported that the county received nine responses to its Request for Proposals from firms interested in serving as the construction manager for the new library. After oral interviews and presentations, she continued, the joint team of Ajax Building Corp./Tandem Construction of Sarasota was recommended for the contract. That matter will come before the commission for approval on Sept. 20, she added.

Late last year, Ajax/Tandem received Project of the Year honors during the Excellence in Construction Awards competition sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors of North Florida. The firms were recognized for their collaboration on the county’s new $15.3-million Emergency Operations Center, according to a Tallahassee Democrat article.

As county staff prepares for the opening of the temporary library in the Hamilton Building, Kalajian noted on Sept. 6, the architectural firm hired for the new library — Sweet Sparkman of Sarasota — has been using comments gleaned from public meetings as its team works with county and City of Venice staff on narrowing the site selection on the Venice Cultural Campus. Most recently, she said, 142 people participated in 14 focus sessions conducted Aug. 16-19 at the Venice Community Center.

“You’ve done a great job of managing this,” Hines told her.

County Commissioner Charles Hines. File photo
County Commissioner Charles Hines. File photo

Noting a comment that Kalajian also had made about moving the process along “expeditiously,” Hines indicated that that word can have a different meaning when it is used in conjunction with a government project. He added that it probably will be 18 months to two years before the new facility will open. Therefore, he said, he wanted to ask who owns the playground near the Hamilton Building. It has no shade structures, and it needs maintenance, he pointed out. Yet, he expects many of the children who come to the Hamilton Building will head there at some point during their visits.

Kalajian replied that the City of Venice owns it. County Administrator Tom Harmer then reported that city staff members have expressed their interest in renovating the playground before the temporary library opens in the Hamilton Building.