TAMPA — A University Area project that has been in the works for close to a decade is finally set to unfold.
In partnership with the Hillsborough County Public Schools, the county is slated to begin construction on the University Area Community Library in the spring of next year with a scheduled completion date of July 2017, barring any weather-related delays.
Located on the south side of East 138th Avenue at Inoma and North 23rd streets between Mueller Elementary and the University Area Community Center, it will serve as both the school’s media center and as a public library for area residents.
Hillsborough County acquired the land in 2009 for $3.8 million, according to the real estate department’s senior land agent Eric Watkins, and it will cost between $3 million and $4 million to build the project, said Jerald Woloszynski, manager of architecture and engineering services.
Thanks in part to a $500,000 grant from the Florida Department of State Division of Library and Information Services, the library — originally planned as a 10,000 square-foot facility — will be a 15,000-square-foot stand-alone structure with an exterior architectural style similar to that of the University Area Community Center.
David Wullschleger, the county’s library services operation manager, said the building will be connected to the school by a covered walkway with the school’s media-center portion open strictly to students and staff during school hours. At the close of the school day and on Saturdays the entire library will be open to the public.
“The library will be designed to support STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” he added.
As such, it will have several multi-purpose rooms that will include innovative labs containing 3-D printers, audio and video recording equipment, and computers with software that allow users to create films, robotics and more.
“I’m so excited because we don’t have a library in this community; so many of our area residents have no access to books or the use of computers for job searches,” said Sarah Combs, executive director and CEO of the University Area Community Development Corporation.
A computer lab, she noted, was installed at the University Area Community Center a couple of years ago to help fill the need until a library could be built.
“When the library opens, the computer lab will be more focused on workforce development,” Combs said.
Mueller Elementary Principal Mary Booth, who’s been meeting with school district representatives to help design the media center feature of the library, is equally delighted.
“We’re really looking forward to it because it is going to be a great new space for our students to read and to learn new things,” she said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at email@example.com.