Carrboro spent 30-plus years planning for a library. Soon, construction will start.

·4 min read

Heavy equipment and concrete drainage pipes tucked into a corner of a downtown Carrboro parking lot Wednesday hinted at the pending construction of a decades-long-awaited Southern Branch Library and cultural center.

The work so far has closed only part of the town lot at 203 S. Greensboro St., near Open Eye Cafe. The town will notify the public about two weeks before the lot is permanently closed, a Wednesday news release said.

The town and Orange County are working together to build the three-story library and cultural center, along with a 171-space parking deck and about 70 bike parking spaces.

They broke ground on the project in May and expect the work to take about a year and a half.

The change will be significant for Roberson Street, which runs between Open Eye Cafe and the parking lot. The street has been a cut-through for those who want to avoid the heavily traveled East Main and Weaver streets. Very few businesses have set up shop on the short stretch.

But in a few years, the building will be part of a new community and culture corridor, within walking distance of historically African American and refugee communities, The ArtsCenter, and programs at El Centro Hispano, Club Nova, the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service and the Orange County Literacy Council.

The changes could bring thousands of people to downtown to shop and dine at local restaurants, officials have said.

An overhead view shows the new library and town facility along South Greensboro Street with a parking deck behind it. Solar panels are possible on top of the new building.
An overhead view shows the new library and town facility along South Greensboro Street with a parking deck behind it. Solar panels are possible on top of the new building.

It also will present opportunities to collaborate with The ArtsCenter, a nonprofit arts organization with a regional reach that has been in Carrboro for more than 40 years, they said.

ArtsCenter officials at one time considered moving into the new cultural center but opted instead for a new, standalone home.

In June, the Carrboro Town Council approved The ArtsCenter’s plan to renovate a former UNC office building, located near the Libba Cotten Bikeway, at the opposite end of Roberson Street from the 203 South Greensboro project. That work also is underway.

The main entrance to the Southern Branch Library would be located off Roberson Street near Open Eye Cafe in downtown Carrboro. The building at 203 S. Greensboro St. also would house town offices and a host of other programs and services.
The main entrance to the Southern Branch Library would be located off Roberson Street near Open Eye Cafe in downtown Carrboro. The building at 203 S. Greensboro St. also would house town offices and a host of other programs and services.

Project details, cost

The cost of the nearly 50,000-square-foot project has almost doubled in the last decade, from $24 million to $42 million. It will be paid for with a mix of cash and debt financing.

The governments also have obtained a $48,552 Duke Energy Smart Saver Custom Energy Efficiency Incentive grant, and a $40,568 Orange County Community Climate Action Grant to add solar and green-roof features.

Other green-building features include stormwater control measures, daylighting and a state-of-the-art heating, air and ventilation system.

Carrboro is providing the land and will pay roughly 45% of the shared costs. Each government will pay for fixtures, furniture and equipment — and the annual operating costs — for its share of the space. The county has estimated its first year of operating costs at $537,670 in the first year. Carrboro expects its annual costs to be roughly $80,000.

The building’s tenants, in addition to the library, will include Carrboro’s Recreation, Parks and Cultural Resources Department, the WCOM community radio station, and teen, performance and meeting spaces for the public.

The building also will establish a permanent home for the Orange County Skills Development Center, which moved in recent years from the county’s building at 503 W. Franklin St. to leased space in the Europa Center.

Construction equipment and concrete drainage pipes rest in a corner of the public parking lot at 203 S. Greensboro St. in Carrboro. The parking lot will be closed so that construction can start on a new Orange County library branch and town cultural center.
Construction equipment and concrete drainage pipes rest in a corner of the public parking lot at 203 S. Greensboro St. in Carrboro. The parking lot will be closed so that construction can start on a new Orange County library branch and town cultural center.

Where can I park?

The project will eliminate 88 public parking spaces, and the town has negotiated with downtown business owners to secure additional parking during construction.

A map of available public and private parking lots can be found online at tinyurl.com/3xwwnzbp.

How to get updates

The town will post project updates each month on its website — townofcarrboro.gov — and on social media. Time-lapse photos also will be posted online when construction starts at tinyurl.com/3dmf5ur8.

The public also can sign up for email updates at carrboronc.gov/signup and by sending an email to the203project@carrboronc.gov.

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