Library’s future stirs excitement, debate in SW Atlanta
Southwest Atlanta residents gathered Thursday night at the Stewart-Lakewood Library to learn more about the Fulton County Public Library System’s initiative to replace older libraries in the system. The library system plans to close Stewart-Lakewood Library once a new 25,000 facility has been constructed.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a step back and see the forest from the trees.
That’s what happened Thursday night at Stewart-Lakewood Library, where southwest Atlanta residents packed the room to learn more about Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library System’s effort to bring a new 25,000 square ft. library to the area.
In November, the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System announced its intent to build a new branch at 1332 Metropolitan Pkwy, which is currently anchored by the old – and currently vacant — Capitol View Baptist Church on the corner of Manford Rd. and Metropolitan Pkwy.
The announcement stirred emotions among residents, hopeful that the new branch can help spur a renaissance along Metropolitan Pkwy.
“We want change and development in this community,” Sylvan Hills resident Barbara Runyan said. “I really like the location, because it would really encourage people to make more changes in the area.
We want to bring more people into our community.”
With seemingly so much at stake and with so much hope attached to the symbolism of a new library, the announcement also revealed a difference of opinion.
Specifically, not everyone agrees about the best location.
“Both myself and Flora Tommie collected over 1,900 signatures of petitioners who are petitioning to have it at the corner of Metropolitan and Avery Rd.” a spokesman from the neighborhood said. “It’s a beautiful space with green space.
It gives us the opportunity to expand further down Metropolitan Ave. [sic], and not just keep everything towards Dill.”
Thursday’s meeting provided a forum to discuss this difference of opinion and outline the process used to select the new library’s location.
“Our three team committee went out at different times of the day and had a scoring system for what would be used by kids, children, families, bus routes, commercial development,” a representative said on behalf of the library board of trustees. “ We had to think about persons working there; where they can go out to eat, safety, lighting – a number of things that we considered.
We all came up with different recommendations, and they all pretty much came out the same.”
And even though Fulton Commissioner Joan Garner said Thursday’s meeting was an opportunity to hear from local residents, it also communicated a message about the process.
When pressed by Atlanta City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, Garner acknowledged that the library system has made its final decision.
“The board of commissioners has said this [1332 Metropolitan Pkwy] is the site,” she said. “We are now in negotiations on that site.”
Negotiations could always fall apart, leading to the selection of the Avery Rd. site, Garner added.
But unless the unforeseen happens, southwest Atlanta residents can expect to see service begin at the new library late 2013 or early 2014, according the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System director John Szabo.
“The bonds – that the voters gave the board of commissioners authorization to issue and sell – those bonds have been sold for phase I,” Szabo said. “The money’s in the bank to do all this work.”