Calling it “an important decision,” Logan City Mayor Craig Petersen Tuesday proposed that a new 21st Century multi-purpose library and community center be built where the Emporium currently stands in downtown Logan.
The mayor further proposed during the Logan Municipal Council meeting that the Emporium and Poco Loco buildings be demolished and indicated that extensive analysis has been completed to determine the technical feasibility of the demolition and construction project.
“The existing library building is an inefficient conglomeration of six structures that date back to the 1930s,” Petersen told the council as he read from a prepared statement (which appears in its entirety at the end of this article). “It is one of the oldest library facilities in the state. Analysis by an architectural firm specializing in library design concluded that remodeling the existing library would not be a prudent option.
“Moreover, with a new hotel soon to be built on the Southeast corner of the block, the space now occupied by the Logan Library can be better used for commercial development.
“Based on this and other considerations, I propose that the Emporium and Poco Loco buildings be demolished and a new library/community center be constructed on that site.”
Although the mayor’s presentation was made at a meeting of the municipal council there was no discussion during the council’s short meeting. He told council members that the Main Street facade of the new library will be creatively designed to give the block an energizing “face lift.” He said a breezeway will be constructed to allow pedestrian passage from Main Street to the center of the block.
Petersen said the library would be much more than just a book repository because there would be flexibly-designed public meeting rooms, state-of-the-art technology and spaces for learning new skills and working on crafts.
Although a formal discussion of the proposal will not come until the next council meeting, councilmember Gene Needham admitted later that he was disappointed to hear of the mayor’s idea.
“I think it will be a mistake for the downtown,” said Needham. “I don’t see that taking away parking is going to make many merchants happy. I think the Emporium building ought to best be used as retail space and can be.”
Previously, Needham has indicated that he favors remodeling the existing library although other members of the council have not gone along with that plan.
LOGAN CITY PRESS RELEASE: MAYOR PROPOSES NEW LOGAN LIBRARY/COMMUNITY CENTER AT THE EMPORIUM LOCATION
On May 9, 2016, with the goal of stimulating economic development in the downtown area, Logan City purchased the Emporium Building and two adjacent properties–Plaza 45, and Poco Loco. These properties are situated in the heart of the business district, across from the historic Tabernacle, and are key locations for a vibrant downtown Logan. At the time of the purchase, the City’s intent was either to locate a new library at that location or to pursue a private retail/residential development.
Since it was remodeled in the 1970s, the Emporium has never fulfilled its potential as an anchor to draw people to the downtown area. Before it closed in December, 2014, the Coppermill Restaurant in the Emporium was a popular venue for lunch, dinner, and banquets, but the configuration of the other spaces caused much of the remainder of the building to be greatly under-utilized. Since the closure of the Coppermill, the Emporium has been essentially empty space in the middle of the downtown area.
Over the last ten months, the city aggressively pursued private development of the properties. A Request for Proposal was issued last summer and the City offered financial incentives for a project that would stimulate downtown business activity. No responses were received that adequately met the City’s economic development objective. In addition, several developers and businesses were individually contacted to ascertain their interest. Again, nothing materialized that was considered to be a good use of the properties.
A parallel effort was the search for a location for a new library. The existing library building is an inefficient conglomeration of six structures that date back to the 1930s. It is one of the oldest library facilities in the state. Analysis by an architectural firm specializing in library design concluded that remodeling the existing library would not be a prudent option. Moreover, with a new hotel soon to be built on the Southeast corner of the block, the space now occupied by the Logan Library can be better used for commercial development.
Based on these considerations, I propose that the Emporium and Poco Loco buildings be demolished and a new library/community center be constructed on that site. Extensive analysis has been completed to determine the technical feasibility of the demolition and construction project. That analysis indicates that building a library on the site will not result in any cost-prohibitive problems.
A primary advantage of a new library/community center at this location is that it provides many years of certainty for the use of these properties. Commercial development, especially if it involved just a renovation of the existing buildings, would be much more subject to fluctuating market factors and less predictable in terms of appearance and maintenance of the structures.
Accordingly, I submit the following concept to the Council and to Logan citizens for discussion:
1. The new library/community center will occupy the space now used by the Emporium and Poco Loco. It will occupy two stories and a basement, with 35,000 to 40,000 square feet of usable space.
2. The facility will be designed as a 21st Century library and will be much more than just a book repository. There will be flexibly-designed public meeting rooms, state-of-the-art technology, and spaces for learning new skills and working on crafts.
3. The Main Street façade of the new library will be creatively designed to give the block an energizing “facelift” while remaining consistent with historic downtown Logan. A breezeway will be constructed to allow pedestrian passage from Main Street to the center of the block.
4. A small food venue will be included as part of the library. Most new libraries built in Utah in the last 15 years have this component.
5. To the west of the library building an outdoor green space will be constructed. The purpose of this amenity will be to provide a convenient gathering space for downtown events and other cultural and recreational uses.
6. Currently, non-Logan residents can use the Logan Library, but are not allowed to check-out books. The new library/community center will be made available to non-Logan residents for a nominal annual fee. This policy will attract additional people into the Logan’s downtown area.
Currently, an average of about 750 people visit the old Logan Library each day. With a new, state-of-the-art facility and with the patronage of non-Logan residents, it is anticipated that the daily number will exceed 1300 visitors to the library. This influx will assist existing businesses and incentivize new business to locate downtown.
This is an important decision that will affect Logan City’s future for many years. It has been carefully considered during the last ten months. Next week, I will provide a financing plan for the new library/community center and also a tentative sketch of what the Main Street facade and the outside gathering area to the West might look like. As we move forward, the next step will be to engage a firm specializing in library design and to charge them to solicit public input as they refine the concept.
Craig Petersen, Mayor, Logan City