Cynthia Berner, director of libraries for Wichita, gives a tour of the new library still under construction during a topping off ceremony on Feb. 24, 2017. The library is scheduled to open in the spring of 2018.
Wichita’s new downtown library won’t be open for another year, but it’s already impressing people.
“This is even bigger than I thought it would be,” Wichita City Council member Brian Frye said Friday during a special tour after the “topping off” ceremony for the $33 million Advanced Learning Library at 711 W. Second St.
City officials and other dignitaries involved with the library project were given a look at how the construction is coming along after the final I-beam was lifted into place on a chilly, windy day.
The two-story, 99,930-square-foot library is rising on the southwest corner of Second and McLean. Jared Woody, project manager for Dondlinger Construction, said the project is on schedule for the library to open next February.
Rooms are being framed and stairs have been put in place, but visitors had to rely on their imagination to see the shelves of fiction on the first floor and nonfiction on the second, the coffee shop and reclaimed wood designs on the ground floor.
But with no tarps in the way, imagination wasn’t needed to appreciate the dramatic view of downtown that will be visible from the second floor.
“That’s going to be a very popular spot — a great place to hang out,” Mayor Jeff Longwell said.
Longwell was in an ebullient mood after the tour.
“It’s going to be a wonderful community asset,” he said. “It’s going to be a gathering place that’s going to be something that people enjoy for a long time.
“It took a little bit of courage to get here, and it’s all going to be worth it.”
The high-tech facility, the third-largest municipal building project in the past 20 years, will replace the aging Central Library downtown next to Century II Convention Center.
The tour’s first stop was the children’s area on the main floor, which was expanded from original plans thanks to a $3 million gift from the Dwane & Velma Wallace Foundation.
Thomas Borrego, director of the Wichita Public Library Foundation campaign to raise money for the new library, said $7.1 million of the $8 million goal has already been raised. The city had asked the board to raise $2.5 million toward the project, but the foundation set a more ambitious goal.
City Council member Lavonta Williams spent much of the tour with a wide smile on her face.
“We’ve needed this,” Williams said. “The current library system served my generation well. But we need to prepare the next generation for the future.”