APPLETON - The Library Board on Tuesday unanimously approved leasing the former Best Buy store on the city's southeast side as the temporary location of the Appleton Public Library while the existing library on Oneida Street is renovated and expanded.
The lease will span 18 months, from March 1, 2022, to Aug. 31, 2023, and will provide 25,000 square feet of space. The lease will cost $12,500 a month, or $225,000 for the 18 months.
In addition, the city will be responsible for utilities and snow removal.
City officials had been working with real-estate agents to identify a site that offers an open floor plan, is easily accessible and on a bus route, and has adequate parking and a fiber-optic connection for computers and phones.
They narrowed the selection to three sites before recommending the former Best Buy store at 2411 S. Kensington Drive as the most suitable and affordable. City project manager Dean Gazza said the former Shopko store on Northland Avenue and space within City Center East on College Avenue also were evaluated.
"This lease is approximately 50% of the cost of other sites visited," Gazza and Library Director Colleen Rortvedt said in a memorandum to the Library Board.
Gazza and Rortvedt said the operating costs for the temporary library would be less than the operating costs for the existing library, which totals 86,600 square feet. All lease expenses, they said, "will be covered utilizing the 2022 library operations budget or carryover from 2021."
The former Best Buy store is being used as a COVID-19 testing site by the Appleton Health Department, but testing at the building will end Feb. 25.
In early February, the city will solicit proposals from contractors to move shelving and materials to the temporary location. The contract will cover moving the items back to the Oneida Street library in 2023.
The most recent cost estimate for the library project totaled $39 million — nearly 50% more than the amount budgeted by the city — due in part to pandemic-induced inflation affecting labor and materials.
Elected officials, though, remain committed to capping the local tax burden at $26.4 million in borrowing. Appleton also set aside $2 million in federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act for broadband access at the library, and it could receive as much as $11 million in grant money from the Wisconsin Neighborhood Investment Fund Program.
In addition, Friends of Appleton Public Library is planning a fundraising campaign to support the project.
Construction is expected to start later this year and continue into 2023.
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This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Appleton library's temporary site will be former Best Buy building