With Aberdeen’s new library set to open on September 11, we have to figure out what to do with the old one on Sixth Avenue Southeast and Kline Street. The Aberdeen Chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau have offered to buy the building and turn it into a new, more central and visible visitor center:
It’s a perfect location. The property is situated along 6th Avenue, which will greatly increase the visibility of our organizations and the services we provide. With over 30,000 cars driving by per day, we will be better able to direct people to Downtown Aberdeen, Storybook Land, Northern State University, Presentation College, and other businesses and landmarks within the community [Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, “Our Vision for a NEW Welcome/Visitor Center,” retrieved 2017.06.11].
For their chance to stake their flag in front of 30,000 cars (and a few bicycles!) each day, the Chamber and CVB in March offered $350,000. After obtaining an appraisal of the old library building of $1.17 million, the city is seeking higher bids:
The city’s current public library on Sixth Avenue Southeast will go up for auction in September.
That auction is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 26, City Attorney Ron Wager said in a news release. Bidders can participate by submitting qualified sealed bids of at least $500,000, he said [Elisa Sand, “City Library Property Auction Will Be in September,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.06.09].
Mayor Mike Levsen sounds optimistic in his weekend column about the prospects for drawing at least one qualifying bid:
What if nobody submits a qualifying bid? Highly unlikely, but that would restart the thinking back to square one.
We have been reminded over and over in these recent years of Aberdeen area progress that not much growth happens until someone with access to capital decides to risk some of it. It’s justifiable for us to thank, in advance, any investors willing to make a qualifying bid and bet on Aberdeen’s future [Mayor Mike Levsen, “Library Auction Set, Now It’s up to the Bidders,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.06.09].
Half-million antes may not be forthcoming if bidders heed the unflattering descriptions used by local library boosters to sell the community on building a new facility to replace the current one:
Water Infiltration: Chronic water infiltration, including leaks from the roof and windows, have compounded the flooding that has occurred in the basement on numerous occasions. Mold, dirt, humidity and the ongoing threat of flooding have rendered only 30% of the basement usable for library activity (meeting rooms).
Aged Infrastructure: Constructed in 1963, the current library building is not in full compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and lacks the electrical, cabling, and internet services required by any modern-day structure.
An Uninspiring Setting: The current library has low ceilings, cramped quarters, bad lighting, obscured windows, and a hodge-podge of furnishings. This does not provide for a space that energizes and inspires patrons. It is not inviting [Aberdeen Public Library Foundation, “We Are Not Meeting the Needs of the Community,” 2015.06.29].
But let’s be optimists! Like the Chamber, I can see the great potential of a location right on busy Sixth and broad, beautiful Kline (which is really a fun street to take from campus to Manor Park). Suppose there are some capitalist gamblers willing to take Mayor Levsen up on this bet. What could they do with that lot?
- A new restaurant to fill one glaring gap in Aberdeen’s culinary offerings: Middle Eastern food! Think Mim’s Café in St. Paul. Aberdeen needs shwarma!
- The Corner Book Shoppe could consider a bold move two blocks west and south. The old library is probably more space than Aberdeen’s only used book store needs, but perhaps they expand the bibliophiliac experience by going halfsies with a nice coffee shop, like, oh, say…
- Caribou Coffee! That coffee shop would gain no visibility moving just two blocks west, but they could finally solve their parking lot chaos with a reconfiguration of the old library’s more spacious north parking lot.
Let’s see if real businesspeople can come up with any better plans… and the half-million dollars to make the city pay attention to their bids.