Guest Post – Grove City Needs a Great Library

jeffreyDavisThank you Laura for your graciousness in allowing me to use your blog to explain my yes vote on the compromise Library/Columbus St. Extension plan. I have had a number of people question my vote. My answer is that I was voting for a new library on Broadway and all that would mean for our Town Center and our community. I was choosing between the chance to be great or merely good.

When we first voted on the Pizzuti plan to build a new library on Broadway and connect that with new higher end apartments on the Lumberyard/City Hall property our goal was to revitalize our Town Center. We envisioned an environment that would draw people from all over central Ohio to our Downtown. The library and its 3000 visitors a day would anchor our northern end and the apartments/retail our southern end. The purpose was to bring people into our Town Center and keep them there. That’s the magic of an “urban library”. By its very design it lures visitors inside while simultaneously showing off all the community has to offer outside. It entices them to stay and connect with all that is going on around them.

Perhaps more than any other partner or observer to this process our library architects (Braun&Steidl and HBM) have understood this. The more I have studied the proposed library design on Broadway the more I recognize its brilliance. The design encapsulates our initial intent in creative ways I could never have conceived. More importantly it would set Grove City apart from our Central Ohio neighbors. I have visited countless libraries across this country and in other parts of the world where I have travelled. The proposed Broadway design is unique in so many ways. No other single site library in our region would offer its community quite what this library would provide for us. Visitors from other communities would come to our library and ultimately they would stay in our Town Center.

Why? Because once in place the library (coupled with the Lumberyard development) would unleash the inevitable market forces. Local business and property owners would adapt to meet the new opportunities and demand and others would join them. That’s revitalization! Isn’t that what we intended all along?

Don’t get me wrong. We can build a new library on Park St. as many are now advocating. It would be new and state of the art but no matter how nice it would still be just another suburban library, little different from what Columbus is now doing with many of its satellite sites. People will come and they will leave with little thought of our Town Center.

So why did I vote the way I did when I did? I simply understood the political reality of three Council members who march in lockstep. The library I describe above was being held hostage to a competing vision by a majority of council members. The Beulah Park plan as initially proposed by Messrs. Berry, Ciminello and Ms. Dover that extended Columbus Street straight through was a death blow to the library as designed. My vote in support of linking Columbus St. to the existing Mill St. was an attempt to keep the library on life-support.

It seems as I write this that support for the library on Broadway is waning. In the end I will likely support what the library itself wants regardless of where and what that is. But if we ultimately lose the library on Broadway I will regret the lost opportunity to be great not merely good.