High Point Library expands, adds green spaces

by Chanel Davis

Residents in High Point can expect to see even more construction at the High Point Public Library, located at the corner of North Main Street and Sunset Drive, as its planned $2.4 million expansion gets underway.

Mary Sizemore, library director, said both residents and employees seem excited about the expansion.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time and we’re very happy just to see it started. All the people on staff that do programs are already thinking of ways that they can use this new space,” she said. “For the past couple of years, we’ve been talking about needing to do something to revitalize High Point and bring something downtown.”

Phase I of the Library’s expansion focuses on creating an outdoor area for the children’s program and a clock tower. The Arts and Education Plaza will include an amphitheater with seating for 100 adults and 38 children on the steps, an outdoor music area, raised garden planters, picnic tables, a butterfly garden, a chalkboard wall, an outdoor classroom and a storytelling circle. The entire plaza will be enclosed by a wall with the main entrance leading from the Children’s Room in the library.

The enclosed plaza is scheduled for completion in late June or early July. A contract was approved in the amount of $795,382 to Bar Construction Company for the work.

“Initially, this whole concept of doing an outdoor programming area for children has been around since the library was renovated and expanded in 2009 and 2010.

There were actually plans for a small area but that was when the economy started to tank, the budget for the renovation project was cut and that was one of the casualties,” Sizemore said. “The project that we have going on right now is much larger than what was originally envisioned.”

Sizemore said that space is not just limited to children and adds that adults could benefit from it as well.

“We can use the pavilion-like area for crafts, programs, plays and other things without having to drag out tables. It will be a very flexible space. Initially it was just planned for children and I think the children’s department will probably use it more than anyone else but it will be available for adult programs as well,” she said.

A clock tower is also included in Phase I of the construction. The tower will be installed at the corner of North Main Street and Sunset Avenue, across from the Walgreens and will also function as a sundial. The clock tower is expected to be completed by late August with decorative finishes constructed in Phase II.

The city was awarded a North Carolina Main Street Solutions Grant of $1 million from the North Carolina Solutions Fund, which is a division of the state Department of Commerce, for a downtown revitalization project to stimulate economic growth along the Main Street corridor. The funds received will be used for the Library Plaza Project. The funds are available on a reimbursable basis and must be matched at a rate of $1.43 for grant dollars. Those matching funds had already been set aside for the library expansion. The state would reimburse the City as they report their expenditures to them.

Phase II of the expansion includes the purchase of property at 816 North Elm St. in the amount of $375,000. The city will purchase the land and the office building currently on the property, and will later demolish the building after the lease ends on the businesses housed there. The property has a tax value of $440,800.

Following the purchase, the existing parking lot will be redesigned to include more parking spaces and other amenities. The space will be designed to feature market stalls with power and water, small gathering spaces, trees and landscaping and possibly a water fountain. Another gathering space will be created at the front of the library. According to Sizemore, this space would be great in the event of concerts, festivals or for food trucks. In years’ past, the library has also offered a farmer’s market during the summer. The new design will allow for more flexibility in what can be offered.

“For example, last year, someone wanted to sell seafood on Saturday mornings but because we had no electricity it was just too hard,” she said. “If we wanted to close off a portion of the parking lot to have concerts one night there’d be power making it more flexible. This allows us more opportunities to do some interesting programs.”

Sizemore said that the library already operates as the center of the community and she feels this expansion allows them to kick it up a notch.

“We’re just expanding what we do here and the city is really interested in creating a strong downtown presence,” she said. “We’re hoping that this will help serve that purpose of giving downtown High Point a unique identity and I think that’s something this project can do.” !

CHANEL DAVIS, a journalism graduate from N.C.A&T SU, is a freelance journalist based in High Point who has worked in the industry for the past five years.