Since the building is too old to be renovated into a modern library space, the city has been soliciting ideas for what to put in the space. Two main concepts have emerged: a plaza/park with housing and parking, and a community or commercial space in the repurposed building plus parking.
Santa Cruz’s downtown library will move from a 52-year-old building into a new mixed-use structure in coming years. So what’s to become of the current library, on Church Street?
Since the building is too old to be renovated into a modern library space, the city has been soliciting ideas for what to put in the space, which is boxed in by Center, Church, Cedar and Locust Streets.
Two main concepts have emerged for the site: a plaza/park with housing and parking, and a community or commercial space in the repurposed building plus parking. The city is surveying residents on which uses they prefer for the site.
Plaza/Park + Housing + Parking
One option for the property is to create a “significant plaza and/or park” with space for various activities and amenities, including the Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market. The market sets up shop each week on the lot that will become the new library, and so it was to eventually relocate to a parking lot at the intersection of Cathcart Street and Front Street.
Initial renderings of a park and plaza feature a prominent lawn for picnicking, as well as space for open air markets, festivals and other events. These open areas would share the library site with an affordable housing complex — likely several stories tall — on Locust Street and a parking area.
Another housing-and-plaza concept would include a larger apartment building for low-income renters that would create an L-shape around a central civic plaza or park. Parking would be underneath the building and the ground floor could be commercial space or community areas, according to sketches included in the city’s community survey.
Repurposed building + Parking
Although the city found it infeasible to renovate the old Church Street building to house a new library, the building frame could still be good for other commercial or community uses.
Renderings in the city survey offer the idea of a modern food hall, like L.A.’s Grand Central Market or Atlanta’s Ponce City Market, where individual vendor stalls fill a larger warehouse-type structure.
A parking area would take up the other half of the site, and could be used as a new home for the farmers’ market, according to the sketch. The current library property has a public parking lot and surface parking for library users.
The new downtown library — part of a larger development that includes affordable housing and a parking garage — could be completed as early as 2025, according to city timelines. Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2022 or early 2023 and take two years. A schedule for construction at the old library site has not been finalized, but the city is closing in on options for transforming the site.
Library construction is being largely funded by “Measure S,” a financing deal approved by 70% of Santa Cruz voters in 2016 that lets Santa Cruz Public Libraries take out a $67 million loan to pay for library construction and upgrades. The new library alone will cost between $25 million and $35 million, according to a facilities master plan. The price of whatever will go at the former library site is still to be determined, and can vary depending on which design the city pursues.
After a two-month process to hear from community members about what they want at the Church Street property, the city recently launched a survey to gauge public priorities and preferences, but also to collect open-ended feedback and ideas.
Survey-takers are asked to rate, on a spectrum, how friendly they are toward the idea of the site being used for: a park-plaza-market space, housing and mixed-use, parking, a regional destination and large events, daily uses (such as a playground or dog park), ground floor community uses and ground floor retail and commercial space.