Venice Library groundbreaking planned for Oct. 30

County Commission accepts $850,000 in donations for the new facility, with contributions linked to naming rights to be addressed later

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Oct. 16 to delete incorrect information about the cost of the new facility.

A graphic shows the Venice Cultural Campus and the site of the former and future Venice Library. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The groundbreaking for the new Venice Library has been planned for 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 30, Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer announced this week.

Construction is scheduled to get underway in November, with completion anticipated in late 2018, according to a memo provided to the County Commission by Sarabeth Kalajian, director of the county’s Libraries and Historical Resources Department.

Additionally, on Oct. 10, the commission is set to consider the Guaranteed Maximum Price for the project, Harmer said during the board’s regular meeting on Sept. 26.

In her memo, Kalajian noted that a pre-bid meeting for the project “was held with potential subcontractors” on July 21 at the Venice Community Center. Ajax/Tandem Construction, the Sarasota firm serving as the construction manager for the new library, had worked closely with the design team “to maintain construction plans within the established project budget,” Kalajian added.

Sweet Sparkman Architects of Sarasota is handling the architectural and engineering services for the project.

The County Commission in January 2016 approved the closing of the Venice Library because of continuing concerns about persistent mold in the building, which board members agreed posed a risk not only to patrons but also to county employees and volunteers in the facility.

Since October 2016, the library has been operating out of the Hamilton Building in Venice, which is open Monday through Saturday and three evenings per week, as Kalajian noted in her memo.

In a related matter, the County Commission on Sept. 26 unanimously approved two donations for the new library. The first — $500,000 — was from the Venice Area Public Library Fund at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The second — $350,000 — was from the Friends of the Venice Public Library.

A graphic provided to the commission in mid-February contains these project details. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The $850,000 will be used for the construction of the new facility and for the purchase of furnishings and equipment, Kalajian pointed out in a separate memo to the County Commission in advance of the Sept. 26 meeting.

Additionally, Kalajian reported in one memo that staff will seek board approval of a $100,000 grant from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for the library, but the funding is dependent upon the board’s agreeing to name the meeting space in the new facility the Gulf Coast Community Foundation Community Room.

The $100,000, which would come through the Library Foundation of Sarasota County, “would provide enhanced furnishings and equipment for the public meeting room,” Kalajian wrote.

“Additional opportunities for the receipt of gifts and grants for the library project are anticipated,” Kalajian continued. “The Friends of the Venice Library launched a fundraising campaign for the purpose of encouraging private donations to enhance programs, the library collection and areas of the library such as the Farley Literary Landmark, the Reading Garden and a Creation Station (makespace), as well as the Youth Library and Teen Zone.

“For major gifts,” she noted, “the County has a policy of recognizing individuals who have contributed significantly to the community, including the naming of the library.”

During his Sept. 26 report to the board, Harmer referenced the information in the memo about naming opportunities, adding, “We’ll be coming back to you” on that issue. “No action is required [today].”

Demolition of the former library was completed on May 1, Kalajian pointed out in her memo. Because of longstanding concerns about the site, she continued, the contractor will “remove organic soils extending to depths varying from 3.5 feet to 8 feet, then backfill with suitable soil.”

The new library will be constructed in the footprint of the old one.