By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Lee County Library wants to build a new facility in or near downtown’s Fairpark District and rejected other locations pitched at a series of planning sessions earlier this year.
Also off the table – or almost – is the possibility of revamping its current, outdated building on the corner of Jefferson and Madison streets, a landlocked spot with limited room for growth or additional parking.
“We’re still looking at it for cost comparison purposes – what would it cost for a renovation/addition there as opposed to new construction at Fairpark – but we feel like the new construction option will win out,” said Jay Bryan, an architect with The McCarty Company who is working with the library on the project.
The library’s building committee narrowed its site-selection list down from multiple locations to just three: one behind Hodge’s Orthodontics near City Hall, one at the roundabout near the new CDF building and one on the north side of Main Street not far from the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
“We had looked at a lot of different sites, of course, and the building committee voted almost unanimously for Fairpark,” said Glenda Segars, a member of the library Administrative Board of Trustees, as well as the building committee.
Also voting overwhelmingly for the Fairpark District were residents who attended the library’s public planning sessions earlier this fall, Segars said.
The other potential locations were the Link Centre, Robins-Noble Field, the former Mega Sports building behind the Tupelo Automobile Museum and the general area east of U.S. 45. It also considered expanding its current facility, but unless cost projections for that plan are exceedingly low, it will be scrapped, too.
The library’s team of architects, headed by The McCarty Company, will create renderings of how a new facility would look sitting at each possible location in the Fairpark area. Those renderings, which could be available by early next year, will help the library launch a public-support campaign for its plans.
Bryan said the team hasn’t yet talked to private land owners or the Tupelo Redevelopment Agency, which oversees the Fairpark District. Those negotiations will occur later.
The current library has 38,000 square feet on two acres, but a national consultant hired last year said it needs at least 91,000 on six acres to accommodate the roughly 800 people who use the facility each day.
It’s unclear who would fund the project, but some suggested allocations from the city and county, which already provide annual funding to the library. The idea of a special tax assessment also was floated.