The new library is planned just west of the post office on what's now a vacant property on East Main Street (Route 299) and Catherine Street, just north of Silver Lake Elementary.
The site selected for the new library in southern New Castle County is often referred to as "Middletown's Stonehenge."
The property on East Main Street (Route 299) just west of the post office has been vacant for years, after a proposed development fell through. However, large concrete pipes and concrete boxes for the development's drainage system still dot the landscape -- evoking the "Stonehenge" name.
County officials announced today that the land has been chosen for a 25,000 square-foot library, more than double the size of the county's Appoquinimink Community Library at 651 N. Broad St., where the announcement was made. The library is now in leased office space of about 7,000 square feet with a 3,000 square-foot activity center.
County Executive Matthew Meyer said ever since he started campaigning for office three years ago, residents in the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area have told him they didn't think they were getting value for their county tax dollars.
"When I was elected, I told my staff we needed to look at three things as a priority in the southern part of the county -- a park, a paramedic station and a library," Meyer said.
The county has announced plans for a new paramedic station in Middletown and proposals for a park in the Middletown area. Now the library site has been chosen.
Meyer said the location was selected with suggestions from residents.
He said he also hears from residents who say the county shouldn't spend more money on libraries because of changes in technology and the way people can access books and information on the internet.
"But our libraries are thriving like never before," said Meyer. "In September, 990,636 materials were checked out of county libraries -- four percent higher than the next highest monthly total we've ever had. In September, 8,071 new library cards were issued."
Meyer thanked everyone who supported the new library project: town, county and state leaders including state Sen. Stephanie Hansen, state Rep. Quinn Johnson and state Rep. Kevin Hensley; county staff, Appoquinimink Community Library staff, the Friends of the Library and all the residents who offered comments and suggestions on the proposal.
Middletown resident Edna Cale said she thought the proposed site is perfect "because it's still in Middletown and people can walk to it, and the property has been vacant forever."
"Transportation is a problem for a lot of residents, and so I'm excited that the new library is still going to be in town," said Cale.
Marcus Henry, county general manager of community services, outlined some of the goals in selecting a site including:
•ease of accessibility, including multiple points of access for those walking, cycling, driving or taking mass transit;
•proximity to residential areas, schools, and other community amenities like recreational and play areas.
"This has been eight years in the making and I want to thank County Executive Meyer for following through on his commitment," said Henry.
Middletown Mayor Ken Branner said the new library site is the "perfect location" and pledged the town's support in expediting the approval process.
"I'm so glad we finally have a county executive who recognizes that New Castle County extends below the canal," said Branner. "The residents in the southern part of the county will be so happy to be able to have this new library. The residents and council are totally supportive of this."
Appoquinimink Community Library Manager Kevin Swed said the new, larger library will provide more room for the library’s collection of books and reference materials, along with more meeting room space.
“We’ll have a lot of new amenities. Right now we’re limited by space,” he said.
The county has signed a letter of intent to buy eight acres at the site at East Main and Catherine streets, but approval of County Council will be required, said Jason Miller, director of communications for New Castle County Executive Meyer.
The state and county governments have each appropriated $5 million for the project, and funding will also come from private donations like the Friends of the Library building fund.
"This $10 million appropriation received so far allows the project to move forward. The entire project budget at this time is estimated at $24 million," Miller said.
RESIDENTS CAN HELP DESIGN INTERIOR
"Now that we have a site that meets the criteria of the state, we are going to engage residents, asking what the library should have," said Miller. "We're going to ask for design ideas for how the space should be divided up inside the library."
If County Council approves the purchase of the Middletown property, the next steps in the library plan will be hiring an architect and construction manager and securing the remaining funds to pay for construction, he said.
If all plans go as scheduled, the estimated groundbreaking would be sometime in 2019 with completion of construction sometime in 2021, Miller said.