Norcross City Council Approves Design For New Library Exterior

Even if it still has a way to go before it’s built, the planned new Norcross library branch at Lillian Webb Park appears to have an exterior design in place.

The Norcross City Council voted unanimously to approve CAS Architecture’s schematic design for the exterior of the building at its meeting Wednesday. The joint city-county project has been in the works for a while, with the facility set to be built on the site of the old Plaza Latina building at the corner of Buford Highway and Britt Avenue.

“Basically, even with the design, in the (Intergovernmental Agreement), they do have the final approval but they really wanted us to look at it and … they want city approval so they can move forward with it,” City Manager Rudolph Smith told the council.

Norcross officials are eager to get the new library built. The idea of building a replacement for the city’s existing library branch has been bandied about for at least five years, but it began pick up steam in recent years. An agreement between the city and the county for the project was approved last summer.

The new facility will replace the existing library. That building is expected to be turned over to the city, which is expected to move its police department into the facility.

“I’m glad things are finally moving forward with the library,” Mayor Craig Newton said. “I think this is a much anticipated project by not only Norcross, but the entire county because this is going to be one of the stellar libraries that have been put in place over the last 15 years.”

Newton said about 1,000 people visit the existing library daily, and that there is limited space to meet the needs of that many visitors. The new library will have 22,000 square feet of space — twice the size of the existing library branch — with parking on a lower deck under the facility.

It will feature a community room as well as larger computer services, creative projects and interactive program areas, the mayor said. Newton also said the new library’s larger space will provide more room for computer research and reading areas.

“We’re really looking forward to this,” he said. “This is going to be a gateway to our downtown and its going to be a pivotal point for Buford Highway and we know that it’s going to be an amenity that will help spur additional economic development there on Buford Highway.”

In addition to the parking underneath the library, the exterior of the building will include a a modern design with a glass wall facing Lillian Webb Park. the design illustrations presented to the City Council show a covered patio area, an open air plaza area and a outside staircase that descends from the plaza to Buford Highway.

A site plan shows the library will take up the Plaza Latina footprint as well as some of the footprint of Bostic Avenue, which means it will directly connect to Lillian Webb Park.

The design illustrations have had Norcross officials, including new councilmen who came into office this week, excited for a while.

“I think it’s pretty neat looking,” new Councilman Chuck Paul told the Daily Post after he was sworn in Tuesday. “It’s very different from downtown. Downtown is 100-years old-plus. This is very sleek looking. I think it will help transform Buford Highway — at least our section of it.

“Buford Highway will never be downtown Norcross or vice versa, but I think we can do some neat things on Buford Highway.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Pro Tem Andrew Hixson offered thanks to county Commissioner Lynette Howard, commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and county staff for working with the city on the project.

The city’s other new councilman, Dan Watch, was ready to get started on construction Wednesday. Watch, who is an architect himself, asked if the city could get the library project fast tracked.

“The reason why I say that is that this is impacting a lot of children and it’s very important to them and I think we should do our best to get this available to the community as quickly as we can since we’re at this point,” Watch said.

While other Norcross officials share Watch’s eagerness to get the library built, Smith said the city was limited by the fact that the intergovernmental agreement between the city and county laid out a timeline for the design and construction process. Bids for construction, which will be handled by the county, is one step that must still be completed.

“Unfortunately, we’ve entered an agreement with a timeline and government is just really, really strict (about timelines),” Smith said.

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