Work to build a new and improved Ridgefield Community Library hit a milestone this month as the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Board of Trustees accepted a bid for construction of the new facility, with doors set to open in the first half of 2021.
During its July 20 meeting the board voted unanimously to accept a bid from Union Corner Construction for $2,484,000 for the project, excluding sales tax. The project will expand the current 2,055-square-foot library to 8,000 square feet, filling out the entirety of the Ridgefield Community Center in the expansion and renovation project.
The new library will have separate child, teen and adult sections, a 75-seat community meeting room and staff office space, according to design documents.
The push for a new library in Ridgefield dates back to 2013 when Fort Vancouver Regional Library commissioned a facilities study that identified the need for a bigger building. The district had entertained possible moving from their current location at 210 N Main Ave., but in 2018 the district board negotiated the donation of the full community center to the district in order to undertake an expansion, not a relocation.
Fort Vancouver Regional Library Executive Director Amelia Shelley said that library operations will stop July 31 so that staff can move out books from the old location into a temporary space next door at 228 Simons St. Shelley said that the Friends of the Ridgefield Library, a fundraising group, wanted to do a “book brigade” to pass books one-by-one across to the other building, but with social distancing measures due to COVID-19 such an activity would be impossible.
Shelley hoped that next year when the completed library opens up library staff and volunteers can take part in the activity.
Temporary operations will start up at the Simons Street location August 5. That space will be more cramped than the current library, as Shelley estimated it was about half the size of the existing space.
“It’s going to make that opportunity to move into the new, bigger library just that much more special, I think,” Shelley remarked.
Though a finalization of a contract and approval for a permit by the city still need to happen before construction can begin, Shelley hoped that Union Corner can break ground in mid-August. The district is hoping to have the new facility open in late spring.
Shelley said the district budgeted $3.6 million for the whole project, which given the bid has the district feeling good about keeping that target with contingency costs. She said the bid was more competitive than the district anticipated with seven companies vying for the project.
Shelley said being at the point where groundbreaking was in sight was a testament to the community, as the Friends of the Ridgefield Library raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and one anonymous donor pledged $1 million matched by the district.
“Ridgefield is definitely a unique community that is very driven to succeed,” Shelley said, giving credit to the Friends and other community members for their support. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Shelley said that having the project on its way was a welcome change of pace during a time when uncertainties abound in the wake of COVID-19, as public indoor library services have been halted since March.
“It sure feels like so many things are put on hold, but this is one thing that thankfully we can do safely and keep moving,” Shelley remarked.