Deal inked on Stone Harbor library site

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STONE HARBOR – A new multimillion-dollar town library looks to be a done deal, finally.

The Cape May County Library Commission closed on the $750,000 Bank of America property on Second Avenue Dec. 20. Early next year an architect is expected to be on board, and construction could start in the spring or summer, officials say.

Plans call for the bank to be demolished, and a new building constructed.

For several years, the library project hit a snag over permitting with the original beachfront site. Some residents didn’t like that location between 94th and 95th streets that had been on the drawing board since 2007. They feared parking issues and for beach access.

In July, after pubic input, Borough Council moved to have a library built at a different borough-owned lot, on Second Avenue.

In September, council members changed their minds when the bank building came on the auction block near Borough Hall on Second Street.

Cape May County Library director Deborah Poillon said she is glad that the library project is finally on course.

“It’s great. This has been a very long process,” she said.

The new library, which Poillon estimates will cost $4.5 million, would replace a smaller one at borough hall on Second Avenue. The Cape May County Library Commission is paying for the new library.

Officials want the new library to have more hours and more programs, says councilwoman and library project spokeswoman Karen Lane. She is chairwoman of the borough’s library design committee.

One of the ideas is hosting themed months. A focus could be on French, for example, which might include an art gallery, Lane said.

The program and content of the new library will drive the building’s design, she said.

Borough Councilman Barry Mastrangelo said he hopes to break ground on the new library in the spring. Poillon didn’t want to set a date, but would like to start building in the summer.

Tentative plans call for the building to house the Stone Harbor Museum, which is currently on 93rd Street. Meeting rooms are also planned for the building, and the library could be on the second floor, Poillon said.

Wraparound decks were considered for the beachfront site, but won’t be part of the plans for the new building. But there may be scenic views, Poillon said.

Earlier this year, the Cape May County Library Commission put in a $750,000 bid on the bank building on Second Avenue. The bid was accepted.

In July, Borough Council voted to put the new library on the “Hand Lot” on Second Avenue between 93rd and 94th streets.

A special borough committee that studied library locations narrowed the field to the original proposed site on the beachfront between 94th and 95th streets; Seng Place on 96th Street between First and Second avenues; and Second Avenue lots between 93rd and 94th streets. The process took about six months.

Initial plans called for the borough to lease the property to the county. Now the county owns the Bank of America property.

In a previous interview, Poillon touted the Bank of America location as being in the center of town.

It’ll also be near Borough Hall, which Mastrangelo says would make the two buildings “basically a municipal complex.”

Lane said the library would fit in with Stone Harbor, resembling other small buildings in the borough.

She also wants the new library to be more assessable and have more programs, such as author visits.

Volunteers are a big part of the project, Lane said. She expects four or five volunteers to be on her committee starting in January. Other volunteers will join the design committee, she said.

Library patrons have had an opportunity to have their say on the library project, according to Lane.

After taking the location vote in July, a suggestion box was put in the library in Borough Hall. Respondents said they wanted more programs, more books and more space, she said.

The current library contains about 11,000 items, and Poillon figures the new library would have about 28,000 items.

Poillon was set to meet with Stone Harbor officials about the library project Dec. 18 but that was postponed to Dec. 21. The Gazette had an early press deadline because Christmas, so it could not report what happened at that briefing.

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