News Flash

Library - Highlights

Posted on: December 16, 2019

Council to Vote on Abilene High/Lincoln Middle School...

Exterior of Future Abilene Heritage Square Building

The Abilene City Council will vote to donate the former Lincoln Middle School to the Abilene Heritage Square project at its regular evening meeting Thursday.

The council plans to also vote on a lease agreement with the new owners to use space within the renovated structure as the new home for the main branch of the Abilene Public Library. 

Michael Rice, assistant city manager, said Monday that the cost of the lease agreement with Abilene Heritage Square, Inc. "will be cheaper than the existing services that we have in place."

The project will provide around 62,000 square feet of fully-furnished and equipped contemporary library space,  said Laura Moore, executive director of the Grace Museum, earlier this year.  

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Abilene City Hall, 555 Walnut St.

The Abilene City Council earlier this year authorized City Manager Robert Hanna to negotiate a long-term lease with the nonprofit Abilene Heritage Square Inc. 

The goal is to create a contemporary learning center open to those in Abilene and the surrounding area.

The project will renovate the roughly 96-year-old academic building and 1929 gymnasium while preserving their historic facades. New construction sensitive to the historic structures will be added to the west side of the academic building.

Organizers in July said at a news conference that other elements of the project will include an auditorium, public event space, an extension of the Grace Museum and more.

Earlier this year, city officials said they planned to deed the property to the nonprofit, then pay a lease fee at 60 cents per square foot for the library space in a 40-year agreement, the amount adjusted based on cost increases every three years.

That amounts to about a $460,000 yearly payment, City Manager Robert Hanna said then, which cheaper than building a new library from scratch and interest-free.

 "Some people may think that's a lot," he said in July. "But we're getting a $20 million library facility, and if we just did the math on that, that's about a $1.5 million annual debt service payment over 20 years."

That amounts to around $30 million, he said, making the lease a far more sensible option.

"It's going to take us about 65-66 years of (those) payments to come close to that," Hanna said earlier this year. 

Estimated cost of planned full renovation has been pegged at around $42.5 million, which includes all furnishings, and a $1.5 million endowment to help fund long-term maintenance costs.

To date, about $38 million has been raised. 

"We anticipate for a time, the project will be transpiring more inside the building, but soon we will see a fence go up around the property," Moore said in an email Monday.

 Organizers in July said that their goal is to be completed in time for the building’s centennial celebration in 2023.

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