On November 26, South Bend's Common Council took two actions enabling the St. Joseph County Public Library to move forward with an ambitious Main Library renovation and expansion projected to cost $36 to $38 million.
The council voted unanimously to approve a three-way agreement with the library and Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, committing the city to contribute $4 million, the library to pay $20 million and the foundation to spend $10 million.
In a separate but related step, the council also approved a $4.8 million bond issue. The city expects to issue the bonds in late 2021. In addition to its own $10 million contribution, the foundation will start fronting money next year so that construction can begin, then be reimbursed later with the city’s $4 million once the city has issued its bonds.
The project will include a $15 to $17 million overhaul of the existing downtown Main Library, last renovated 28 years ago, and a new $19 million Community Education Center facing the southwest corner of Wayne and Michigan streets. The city’s $4 million will go toward the education center, which will be attached to the existing library by a connector that could house a technology center.
In between the library and learning center would be a confined but publicly accessible outdoor courtyard, creating space for outdoor programming that the library has long desired. Large new windows on the library’s east-facing wall will look out on the courtyard.