Lookout Update: Santa Cruz will provide more design details on the new downtown library

A sample rendering of what the new downtown Santa Cruz library could look like.
A rendering of what the new downtown Santa Cruz library could look like.
(Via City of Santa Cruz; rendering by Group 4 Architecture, Research + Planning, Inc.)

On Thursday, the city will present its most recent design updates to plans for the new downtown library, one part of the downtown library mixed-use project. Groundbreaking for the development is expected for the latter part of 2023.

Santa Cruz bookworms will soon be able to envision their future reading perches, with the city set to present more details about the forthcoming new downtown library to the public.

Lookout Update sig

Thursday from 5:30-6:30 p.m., Santa Cruz city officials will host a virtual community meeting for locals to learn more about the schematic design of the new downtown library and the overall site plans for the mixed-use project. The event — led by the Jayson Architecture firm and city staff — will give community members the chance to see behind the upcoming construction zone, and speak on the design and aesthetics of the new design.

Funded by voter-approved Measure S from the 2016 ballot, the new modern library portion will replace the existing downtown library on Church and Center streets. The new location will be on the city-owned surface parking lot (Lot 4) bounded by Cathcart, Cedar and Lincoln streets.

The existing library will remain open as the project progresses, with groundbreaking scheduled for the latter part of 2023 and completion by 2025.

The project was most recently updated with the following elements:

  • A modern library with additional community program and study rooms.
  • A child care facility.
  • 124 units of 100% affordable and subsidized housing, including studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments.
  • 310 parking spaces.

The entire project is estimated to cost $104 million, with the library-specific portion making up between $30 million and $33 million of that as of December.

City spokesperson Elizabeth Smith told Lookout on Wednesday that a little over 100 residents had signed up for the virtual event, and many have expressed excitement over the updates.

“This will really show the benefit of getting outside the box of what renovation would require, to really rethink and reimagine what a 21st-century library looks like in this county,” she said.

In December, the city held three community workshops with the master architect team to hear more of the community’s needs for the project, and incorporated more of those elements into the most updated plans. Smith says that, with 124 units, this project will also be the largest affordable housing project ever initiated in the city of Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Public Libraries Communications Manager Diane Cowen said staff is still determining if there will be enough space in the newly proposed library for its entire team, including collection management services and the IT department. Yet she said she and the team are excited to see the new community spaces included in the library plans.

“Having these different types of spaces for different activities — study rooms, meeting rooms, flexible spaces — is hugely important for the community to gather,” she said. “I personally am so excited to see the rooftop area … that’s really going to offer an opportunity for folks to gather and explore, bringing that nature inside the library.”

While the project has had its detractors, Smith encourages residents to check in with the city directly.

“It’s really important for people to evaluate the project based on the facts, and not from conjecture from others,” she said. “This really is an unparalleled opportunity for the community.”

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