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Cleveland Public Library Will Renovate Or Rebuild All 27 Branches

The Cleveland Public Library (CPL) is finalizing plans this week to spend $39.3 million in the first phase of a 10-year project to renovate or rebuild all of its branches.

The money comes from a tax levy increase that Cleveland voters approved in 2017 by a 69 percent margin.

The first project set to be completed under the plan will be the new, $10.1 million Martin Luther King Jr. branch on Euclid Avenue, scheduled to break ground in spring 2020. Five more branches will be completed by 2024, according to CPL, and all 27 branches in the system will be done by 2029. A renovation of the main library downtown will come after that.

The new buildings will embrace how the city’s libraries have evolved into gathering places and ad-hoc creative hubs, says Felton Thomas, the library’s executive director.

"We're looking for each one of our libraries to have something that will be slightly different, whether it's a maker space or a teen center or a music center," Thomas says.

The Walz Branch, in the city's Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, will be among the first wave of projects. When complete, an entirely new building will house the library on the ground floor and several floors of affordable apartments will be located above. Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization is a partner in that project.

The library will spend a total of more than $100 million on the branch rebuilds. Once those are complete, CPL expects to spend $65 million renovating the two buildings that make up the main library downtown.

Concepts for the new buildings came from ongoing community meetings the library has held in neighborhoods across the city, Thomas says.

"One of the first things [people] would say is, 'We love your people, we love your collections, we love the services and programs you provide'," Thomas says. "'Your buildings though — they're starting to look dated'."

Many of Cleveland's branch libraries were built in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s and offer few flexible spaces for engaging with technology and new media. The plan is being put together as the library system celeberates its 150th year of serving Cleveland.

The library's board expects to approve architects — most of them local — for the first five rebuild projects at its meeting Aug. 29.

Some libraries may begin to stay open later at night and open up on Sundays as the project rolls out, Thomas says.

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