Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Library Opening May Be Overdue; Hurricanes, Late Deliveries Could Push Building's Debut into Spring

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Library Opening May Be Overdue; Hurricanes, Late Deliveries Could Push Building's Debut into Spring

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA, The Times-Union

Hindered by an intense hurricane season and late delivery of some materials, Jacksonville's new Main Library will be several months late in opening.

At one time, library officials talked about the idea of hosting a Super Bowl party in early February at the new building, which faces Hemming Plaza downtown. Now, it could be May before all of the materials are on the shelves and ready for checkout.

Project manager Rex Holmlin said it's too uncertain to give a specific date for substantial completion, which is when the building is turned over to the city with only a few items left to complete, but he said he expects it to be this spring. Then, it could take up to six weeks to move the library's 750,000 books, compact discs and other materials from the old Main Library. Plus, the project included $5 million more for additional materials that have to be put in place.

The delay was caused when construction was halted four times to prepare for hurricanes hitting Florida, and the delay of some materials, including metal roofing that arrived about a couple of months behind schedule, Holmlin said.

"It's almost like September didn't exist," Holmlin said.

He said the materials were late because of a high demand during a peak construction period.

Even with months to go on construction, passers-by can get a good idea of what the building will look like upon completion. Rising four stories on the Laura Street entrance, and five stories on the Main Street entrance, the structure's concrete brick is made to look like coquina stone. The trick, Holmlin said, is spreading baking soda over the concrete to leave voids on the surface.

Don't expect the new Main Library, built with $95 million under the voter-approved Better Jacksonville Plan, to be much like the old library. Instead, patrons may get the feel of walking into a Barnes & Noble or a Books A Million.

On the first floor, visitors will be able to grab a drink or snack from a cafe before heading into a popular library section. Library sections will have "boutiques" or special areas where patrons can find the latest mystery, western or other best-sellers.

The flooring for now is a gray concrete. Once construction is completed, part of the first floor will have colored concrete to withstand heavy use and allow for drinks and food -- a big no-no in the other libraries in the system.

The building will be about 300,000 square feet, about three times the size of the current Main Library and it'll feature special areas, including those for children and teens. Intended to inspire people of all ages to pick up a book and start reading, the children's section will offer a large couch-like structure that looks like a giant alligator. …

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