YBOR CITY — The long wait for construction to begin on a new Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library almost is over.
Library officials say the existing library, at 1505 N. Nebraska Ave., will close by Dec. 1. The structure will be torn down and construction on a replacement library at the same location will begin early next year.
The new two story, 25,000-square-foot library is expected to open late in 2014 or by early 2015. It will cost about $4.5 million.
The new library will preserve the legacy of its namesake, civil rights activist Robert W. Saunders Sr. A bust of Saunders is in the existing library’s reading area. A showcase will display the bust in the new library.
There also will be an African-American Research Library which will chronicle the history of the area and its community leaders. The library “will house a lot of special collections,” said Renelda Sells, a chief librarian. “We’re highlighting a lot of African-American history in Tampa.”
The nonprofit Robert W. Saunders Sr. Foundation formed in 2006 to support cultural, educational and research programs at the library.
A recording room in the library will make it easier to capture oral histories.
A children’s library is planned for the first floor, and a portion of it will be used during school hours by students at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. The school has a partnership with the county’s library system, and a walkway connects the school building with the existing library.
A multipurpose room with seating for about 350 people will provide meeting space for the community as well as a portable stage for plays, concerts and banquets.
The Ada T. Payne Friends of Urban Libraries will have a bookstore on the first floor.
A stone mural embedded in the existing library’s front wall — “Symbols of Mankind,” designed by artist Joe Testa-Secca — will be preserved.
“It will be on the front of the new building,” Sells said.
During construction, library patrons will have other options such as the John F. Germany Public Library at 900 N. Ashley Drive, the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library at 2607 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and the Seminole Heights Public Library at 4711 N. Central Ave.
The Seminole Heights library is under construction but is expected to open by the end of this year.