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Saturday, July 20, 2024

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Crest Considers Options for Old Library

The outdoor space of the renovated library would include fire pits

By Shay Roddy

WILDWOOD CREST – Wildwood Crest Board of Commissioners and officials presented a plan to renovate and repurpose the former library building, located on a beachfront lot off the bike path.
In 2015, the county, which operates the library, moved to a new building on Atlantic Avenue, between Columbine and Wisteria roads. This created a vacancy at a desirable location in town. 
According to Bill McLees, architect, a storm 18 months ago revealed ties between the brick and masonry were corroded, and the building had the potential to collapse in the future if the problem wasn’t addressed. McLees said even if the building is not renovated, something must be done with it. 
Mayor Don Cabrera laid out the borough’s options: sell the lot, lease the building long term to someone who wants to repair it and operate out of it, demolish the building and build some green space, demolish the building and rebuild on the lot, demolish the building and make a parking lot, or renovate the current building. 
McLees and Marc DeBlasio, engineer, laid out the plans to renovate and repurpose the building into a multipurpose community hangout. 
The new design would have outdoor seating areas to hang out or that the borough could use for programs, McLees said. 
The outdoor features proposed include fire pits, increased parking, electric car charging stations, Adirondack chairs, art displays, and lawn areas outside of the building. 
DeBlasio said the parking spaces would increase from eight spots to 38 under the new design.
Cabrera said he saw the outdoor area as a potential wedding venue, where a party could come off the beach after a ceremony and have the reception there. Alcohol could be served, if it’s not a cash bar, Cabrera said. 
The indoor space would have a retail area, where the borough could rent the space and generate revenue, and a concession area, which could function as a food venue, coffee shop, or juice bar. 
Other indoor spaces would include a senior area, which would include historical elements, community space to hang out and get work done, and restrooms, which the borough received a grant to include. 
Deputy Mayor Joyce Gould spoke against the idea, saying she prefers demolishing the building and installing an 84-space parking lot, which attendants would run. Gould pointed out how neighboring towns have beachfront parking. 
“I’m the other side of the coin,” said Gould. “I’m the money person, and that’s what I’m supposed to look out for – your pockets.”
Gould is the commissioner in charge of finance and stressed that the borough needs more parking, which, she said, has been a complaint of visitors and residents for years. 
“You know you can make money on this. Parking lots are really exciting,” Gould said, adding that the uncertainty created by the coronavirus makes it an improper time to invest in capital projects. 
Cabrera and Commissioner David Thompson spoke in favor of the project. 
Thompson called it a “pet project” of his, and said he heard from seniors who go to Avalon or Stone Harbor for activities in the winter. He said he made it a priority to make quality senior programs available in the Crest. 
Cabrera pointed out that the borough would receive a grant for the bathrooms and HVAC work, making it affordable.
“This project is basically paid for. We’re ready to go, and we have tomake a decision based on the grant money. That’s the down and dirty of it,” Cabrera said. 
DeBlasio estimated the project cost at $1.5 million to $1.8 million.
To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com.

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