Work on 66% expansion of Bloomingdale is on schedule
By KEVIN BRADY
Those drivers who complain about finding a parking spot in midtown Manhattan have never been to the Brandon Regional Library on a Saturday morning. Finding a parking spot at the athenaeum is like uncovering a male pop star under 30 Taylor Swift hasn’t dated, difficult but it can be done.
However, that may be a little easier today with the recently concluded renovation of the parking lot, which created new parking spots and made the entrance easier to navigate.
Just down the road, at the Bloomingdale Regional Library, construction workers are shoulder to shoulder with Shakespeare as they work to add 10,000 square feet of space to the library that serves residents from FishHawk, Lithia and Bloomingdale.
Bloomingdale is one of the county’s most active libraries, second only to Tampa’s Jimmy B. Keel Library. Brandon often rounds out the top three, according to library officials, who oversee 25 county branches.
The Bloomingdale library, 1906 Bloomingdale Ave., opened in 2005 but even at 15,000 square feet, officials were already planning an expansion.
“We knew when it opened that the building would need to be expanded so it was designed with expansion in mind,” said Jean Peters, chief librarian for the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative. “It was busy from the first day it opened.”
With builders snapping up land and housing developments seemingly going up overnight, county officials knew the library would have no shortage of customers.
“We could see the housing developments coming in the area and knew there would be a need to expand,” she said.
Work on the $2.1 million project is proceeding on schedule with the last lick of paint on the building dry by the end of the year, Peters said.
Among the new additions to the library are:
• A new, larger children’s room
• Additional space for technology and teen activities
• An additional, large community room for library programs and public meetings and doubling the size of the current meeting room
• Additional seating for quiet study
• A bigger Friends of the Library book store
“The new children’s room will be large enough to hold the entire children’s collection as well as computers,” Peters said. The library is also carving out a new reading and quiet study area. “It will have the kind of furniture that people can pull together to collaborate. It’s all about adding more people space.”
Inconvenienced for now by construction work, patrons are looking forward to the changes.
“Everyone is excited here,” said Eloise Hurst, branch supervisor.
Peters commended Bloomingdale’s Friends of the Library group for their work on the project.
“They have been working with us even before the library was built. The expansion is something the community has needed for a long time and I know they are eager for the expansion.”
Patrons of the Brandon library have welcomed the changes, said Vickie Ricketts, branch supervisor.
“They tell us it looks much better and there’s no trouble finding a parking spot now,” said Ricketts of the $69,000 project.
In addition to creating six new parking spots at the library, a nearby doctor’s office is allowing library workers to park there, freeing up to 10 spots. A lowered entrance to the parking lot – “cars were bottoming out on the old one,” Ricketts said – and a new exit ramp also helped.
“It’s much easier to get in and out now, and with the improved landscaping, the response has been very positive.”
There are no plans for more parking at the Brandon site, Peters said.
“We have the library on one side and Center Place Fine Arts & Civic Association on the other, which hosts a lot of events so there’s a lot of stress on the parking lot. I don’t think there’s much else we can do on the current site. The land we have is the land we have. We worked really hard with the engineering and architectural firms just to create the additional parking spaces.”
Relocating the 33-year-old library is a non-starter.
“It’s just not something we are looking at,” Peters said.