Like a good neighbor

The building boom of the last 10 years has come to a screeching halt. Fortunately, nobody told the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District.

 

 

After the opening of a new 14,356-square-foot library in Battle Ground May 30, the district will follow with a 24,000-square-foot library in Cascade Park late this year or early next year, and the 83,000-square-foot main library at Evergreen Boulevard and "C" Street.

Demolition of the former CARR Vancouver dealership there is underway to make way for the new library, set to open in mid-2011.

With this momentum, the library district stands to be an economic driver for Southwest Washington, creating jobs and bringing people to burgeoning business districts.

Portland-based Howard S. Wright, the general contractor for the main library, estimates that the $38 million project will create 160,000 worker-hours during construction.

While the libraries secured capital funding and private donations in better times,
they have recently had to cut hours and staff due to falling tax revenues.

But even opening the new libraries at less-than-full speed, there is a collective opinion
that the new projects will pull plenty of paying customers to adjacent mixed-use and commercial developments.

Anchoring Battle Ground Village

The largest tenant at Battle Ground Village, the new North County library is nearly five times larger than the former city library. It is expected to bring nearly 300,000 unique visits to Battle Ground Village in the next year, making it quite a good neighbor at the mixed-use development.

"While people are (at the library), they don't spend any money," said FVRL Executive Director Bruce Ziegman. "But before they go in, there's a good chance they might spend money somewhere else."

Dennis Pavlina, president of The Gold Medal Group, agreed. He and Carmen Villarma, president of The Management Group, developed the project and have a long history of supporting libraries.

The library district received a
$1 million discount on the building shell, which Pavlina referred to as a personal donation. It brought the cost of building there down to
$3.4 million, Ziegman said.

"Libraries and retail go together because they both need bodies," Pavlina said, calling it good planning where visitors are not just going to a single destination. "A library in a retail element is just like a movie theater or (bowling alley and entertainment center) Big Al's. It becomes a valued tenant just like all other tenants."

Becky Dunning owns the first business to locate at Battle Ground Village, the 2,100-square-foot furniture and accessory retailer Distinctively Home Inc. Dunning said she loves the spontaneous visits the library generates for her store – even before it opened.

Distinctively Home is located directly across from the library and Dunning answered this question many times before it opened: Where's the new library?

Dunning chose Battle Ground Village in part because of the expected walk-in traffic.

Spotlight on downtown

In downtown Vancouver, Kate Singh, for one, can't wait until the new main library opens. There are plans for a groundbreaking in August, and demolition is well underway.

Designed by Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership, the new Vancouver Community Library will have five above-grade levels and a below-grade elevator entrance from an eventual parking garage. The five levels include a mezzanine between the first and second floor. There will be a roof deck for gathering but no coffee shop or retail element, other than a Friends of the Library Bookstore.

Sustainable elements include low-VOC interior finishes, recycled and locally made products, enhanced insulation and access to natural light. The neighboring mixed-use Riverwest development is on hold until at least next year.

The library will be located across from Singh's photography business' office at The Academy. The Academy, a historic Vancouver professional office building, is hidden in plain view, she said.

"We've had a one-way street going past the academy for so many years, people pass us without even noticing," Singh said, adding that she stays at The Academy because it is beautiful and historical.

However, she has been looking for other office spaces because The Academy has no retail outlet.

"To have more people come through would just be more exciting," Singh said. "The more visible profile we have, the better off we all are."

Singh said she plans to market Aevum Images directly to library visitors – it expects up to 1 million visits per year – keeping brochures stocked there, putting signage on the south side of Evergreen and creating a relationship with the library.

To be clear, the Academy has a restaurant, El Presidente, and a coffee shop, The Missing Drink, which Singh said will pull library-goers to the Academy – highlighting it as a place to work and helping to fill some of the empty spaces.

Monte Hidden, who owns The Academy with his two brothers, said the library will have a positive impact, in general, on the downtown core. But, he said, it won't likely have much of an impact on his tenants because The Academy "is a professional office building" whose tenants do not rely heavily on walk-in traffic.

The building is 95 percent leased, Hidden said.

Josh Schlesinger, vice president of Portland-based Schlesinger Cos. and owner of the future library's "C" Street neighbor, the Bank of America Financial Center, is focused on revitalizing Vancouver's downtown core and attracting tenants to the area. As of Jan. 30, the building was 85 percent full, according to VBJ research.

"I think the library is wonderful thing," Schlesinger said. "I think it's another amenity downtown (Vancouver) offers over other parts of Clark County."

Body, mind and soul

The new Cascade Park Library will be nearly 10 times the size of its predecessor on Southeast Hearthwood Boulevard. It is under construction slightly west of the current location in the recently developed 136th Avenue commercial corridor.

It will be located adjacent to the Firstenburg Community Center, and for this reason, FVRL sees it a little bit differently in terms of economic impact, but, Ziegman said, "It's hard to imagine a better physical relationship.

Library staff has coined this project "the body, mind and soul" library, said FVRL Communications Director Sue Vanlaanen.

"It's pretty clear from examples – even on the Portland side – that that libraries are an incredibly valuable asset to any mixed-use project, that they really support different kinds of retail amenities," said Alisa Pyszka, city of Vancouver business development manager.

Libraries as a resource to small business

In addition to bringing foot traffic to surrounding businesses, libraries have countless free resources available to job hunters and businesspeople alike. Here are some of the business resources that the FRVL libraries offer:

  • Between them, the three new libraries will increase their free computer stations from 59 to a whopping 216.
  • FVRL offers free access to paid databases such as Reference USA, Business and Company. Resource Center, Standard and Poor's NetAdvantage and Morningstar Investment Research Center. These databases are available to anyone who has a library card, and they carry accurate, vetted information. They are available at
    www.fvrl.org
  • A new service is now available at FVRL libraries, Book a Librarian, which allows any library member
    who needs personal help with in-depth research can book
    one-on-one time with
    a librarian.
  • Meeting spaces can be booked at most, if not all, of the libraries in the district.

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