County breaks ground for new North library
With one ceremonial scoop of dirt, the construction of the new North Fort Myers Public Library got under way Wednesday.
Numerous local dignitaries, library staff and three county commissioners came to be part of the festivities for a project that has taken years to become a reality.
Of course, a lot has been done in the month since the project got the official green light. The 4-acre site adjacent to the community park and recreation center off Old 41 was cleared of trees and the old library was razed.
But the groundbreaking symbolizes that the girders and walls will begin to come up from the ground and people driving by will be able to see how the project is taking shape.
Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman said it was time to take the drawings they have for the library, which were on display, and make them a reality.
“This area has become quite a hub for North Fort Myers. It’s become a community gathering place with the recreation center and the athletic fields,” Hamman said. “I’m excited about the possibilities, the future and the memories that will be made here by citizens for generations to come.”
Commissioner Frank Mann, who also represents North Fort Myers, was the head cheerleader at the event, crediting County Manager Roger Desjarlais as well as those who “stood up and fight.”
“They are the voice that never sleeps for North Fort Myers that gets these things done,” Mann said. “You are the wheel that keeps squeaking so we can put the oil on it.”
Linda Yorde, of the Friends of the North Fort Myers Library, echoed those thanks, especially to those in the community.
“They recognized and pursued the need for a larger, more modern facility. Armed with facts and figures, we were able to convince county commissioners that this site was the ideal location,” Yorde said.
Mindi Simon, director of the Lee County Library System, said the support of the community and the idea of nearly tripling the size of the old facility makes this so special.
“It’s going to be such a great asset to the community. There will be more computers, more space, beautiful sitting areas outside, and space and materials for everybody,” Simon said. “When they knocked down the old building, it was a sign this was really happening. From this point, it will move much faster.”
Rachel Busch, strategic projects manager at the Lee County Economic Development office, said the library will be tremendous for an area that needs projects such as this to help build business.
“I love the library system. My kids love it. It’s an asset for all people with the synergy it has with the rec center,” Busch said. “It will be a sense of place and community for residents, more than just a place to check out a book.”
North Fort Myers’ honorary mayor Doug Dailey said the groundbreaking represented a milestone, something that was long overdue for the area.
“I’m glad to see it and looking at the plans, it will be a gem for the community,” Dailey said. “It will give the area more credibility and helps make it an up-and-coming area. This is the first of many steps to develop this area.”
The new library will be about 25,000 square feet and is expected to open in the summer of 2019. The project is expected to cost $12.5 million and will be paid for with existing library fund balances.
A temporary library location is at 50 Pine Island Road behind Buddy Freddy’s and the site of the new library.
Another new library in Bonita Springs will be built, with construction expected to begin in 2018.