Below is a letter that my friend Spencer Barnes and I wrote to Cedar Raids Mayor Ron Corbett, City Council members and the Cedar Rapids Public Library Board of Trustees. The Library Board will make a final site recommendation tomorrow at their 4 pm meeting and the City Council is expected to vote on Feb. 24.
To the City Council of Cedar Rapids:
The new library is arguably the most important city facility to be rebuilt from the flood. It is not only a place to store books and information, but it is a place of community engagement, interaction and participation. The new library will have a profound effect on its surrounding area, therefore site selection should not be taken lightly. We feel the issue of parking has been unreasonably prioritized above other equally, if not more important criteria. Furthermore, we have concern with the way parking availability has been defined at certain sites, in particular at TrueNorth.
The alleged problem with providing parking at TrueNorth is hard to accept, with two large city parking garages so close by. Further, the library board’s demand for 315 free parking spaces is also unreasonably excessive. Even Library Director Bob Pasicznuk said that 200 is plenty for our peer libraries, and Des Moines’ new downtown library, for example, only includes 30 spaces.
By asserting such an extreme and unnecessary parking requirement, this ultimately becomes the main determining factor for site selection. If the city is serious about actually being “vibrant” and “urban”, we must strive for the types of places that are accessible and stimulating – that bring together people from all walks of life for all kinds of activities. Alternative means of getting around need to be recognized and encouraged – biking, walking, and transit. Incentivizing private cars is counterproductive to this goal and is unfair to those who cannot drive. Additionally, as the old library was once labeled as downtown’s biggest attraction, maximization of synergistic benefits needs to be prioritized. The library should be placed in a location by which visitors can easily utilize other downtown services including local businesses struggling to gain a foothold after the devastating flood.
Therefore, we believe that TrueNorth is the perfect location to foster community engagement and continued rejuvenation of downtown. A new library at the TrueNorth site could reactivate the fading Green Square Park, creating a truly cultural community green space – bordered by the art museum, former Carnegie Library, and the First Presbyterian Church. With proximity to the established downtown core, yet on the edge of more sparsely built up blocks, the new library here would promote further urban development in this area. The site is also responsibly far from the river, taking on very little water during the flood, so slightly elevating a new library here could mitigate any risk.
We ask that you take a more balanced approach in choosing a final library site and consider which site has the greatest potential to foster a real vibrant and urban hometown. We believe that site is TrueNorth.
Senior in Architecture
Iowa State University
Senior in Finance
George Washington University