Willingboro's Council To Study Cost Of Library The 42,000-square-foot Building Is Expected To Cost Millions. Its Site: The Vacant Willingboro Plaza.

Posted: August 17, 1999

WILLINGBORO — The cost of the town's new library - one of three major building projects before the Township Council - will be evaluated in a closed council meeting tonight.

Estimates were not available, though council members and Christine King, the library director, said the project would cost millions of dollars.

Councilman James Ayrer said the council is also evaluating the cost of renovations to the municipal complex and the former John F. Kennedy High School - all multimillion-dollar projects. ``We have to figure out a way to pay for all of these things without raising the tax base sky high,'' he said.

The proposed 42,000-square-foot library would be built at the vacant Willingboro Plaza on Route 130, which council wants to transform into a town center with the library as one of its centerpieces.

The plaza would offer 260,000 square feet of new housing, retail stores, ponds, fountains, gardens, pavilions, jogging and bicycle paths, a New Jersey Transit park-and-ride area, and a community cultural center. Estimates for the entire redevelopment project have been as high as $50 million.

Township officials have said moving the library would be the first step in achieving their long-held vision of the plaza. And, in line with the rest of the plans, the library design is grand.

King said the library would have a cafe, twice the current library's number of computers, and enough shelf space to add 40,000 books, which would bring the library's total to more than 100,000 volumes. Other attributes would be meeting rooms, staff offices, a periodical reading room, a computer training center, an exhibit area, a gift shop, and a local-history room.

The one-level library also would be more handicapped-accessible, King said. The current library is cramped and worn. It is on the second floor of the municipal center, with narrow aisles separating rows of books.

The shelves in the new building would be constructed so that someone sitting in a chair could reach the top shelf. The aisles also would be wide enough for wheelchairs.

A cafe would be fashioned after ones commonly seen in Barnes & Noble stores, King said. Developers are searching for a retailer who would be willing to operate in the library.

Randolph R. Croxton, a New York architect, is designing the library, which could open as early as the fall of 2000.

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