OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — According to a release from Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s office, “the first steps to relocate the W. Dale Clark Library to a new downtown location are underway with an opening date planned for fall 2022.”
Stothert’s office provided the following:
Customer-focused services including materials checkout, meeting spaces, and computer access will move to 1401 Jones, four blocks south of the current location on 14th Street between Douglas and Farnam. Administrative offices and central distribution will move to a vacant Shopko store at g4th & Frederick.
The moves implement recommendations first made more than ten years ago.
In 2010, and again in 2017, a consultant's review of Omaha Public Library (OPL) facilities recommended replacing the W. Dale Clark library and moving central distribution, which is currently located at the downtown branch. OPL contracted with Himmel & Wilson Library Consultants to develop its 2010 Facilities Master Plan and the plan update in 2017.
The 2017 Master Plan described the W. Dale Clark library as dated, inefficient, and underutilized and said the building design makes it costly to operate. "Replacement of the main library should be seriously considered," said the consultant's report. It recommended a new downtown location near the current site, with approximately 30,000 square feet.
"The Jones Street location meets both the consultant recommendations and our goals, to provide excellent library services in a redesigned library that remain convenient and accessible to our customers," said Mayor Jean Stothert.
Preparations for the move will begin in early 2022, prior to the reopening of the Gene Leahy Mall on Memorial Day weekend. The current library location, on the west end of the Mall is a key component of the riverfront redevelopment. Numerous developers are interested in the property.
"New development brings new employees, residents and amenities to downtown Omaha, it's all connected," said Mayor Stothert. "In its 2017 report, Himmel & Wilson recognized that public libraries are important for economic revitalization and community transformation. That's what we will accomplish by implementing the recommendations of the Facilities Master Plan."
Mayor Stothert has signed a Letter of Intent to lease 1401 Jones from the White Lotus Group for ten years, with an option to purchase the building, or opt-out of the lease after five years. The annual lease cost is $465,000.
The estimated cost to design, renovate, and equip the building is $3 million, to be split evenly between the City and White Lotus Group. The City plans to use a combination of funding sources including the General Fund, bonds, and savings from relocating the branch and administrative operations.
The 42,000 square foot building has three floors. The City will lease 30,000 square feet on two levels for walk-in library services.
The Mayor also signed a Letter of Intent to lease the former Shopko store at 3020 S. 841h St. (84th & Frederick) from Frederick Square LTD. The 89,312 square foot building will be remodeled to house OPL administration, circulation, and central distribution. The 10-year lease has options to renew. The City will pay $405,000 annually to lease the building, plus an estimated $500,000 for remodeling.
The City has received a proposal to oversee the transition to the new spaces, including design and construction management at a cost of $360,000. It is estimated the process will take ten months.
The agreements need approval from the Library Board of Trustees and Omaha City Council.
"We are excited to work with the Mayor's office on this major endeavor. We are committed to continue to serve our patrons downtown and across the city during this major transition," said Mike Kennedy, Board of Trustees President.
OPL is also developing a strategic plan which will focus on library services and programs over the next 3-5 years. The strategic plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees in March.