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Natrona County Library’s Exploration of Downtown Building for New Library Site

Despite initial hopes, the project was abandoned due to structural and financial concerns

The Natrona County Library, in its continuous effort to serve the community and address space and structural issues in its current facility, recently explored the possibility of securing the downtown First Interstate Bank (FIB) building as a new site for the Library. The exploration was part of the Library’s strategic initiative to address the need for a new, more versatile facility that meets the ongoing and changing needs of our community.

The FIB building, known for its robust concrete engineering – a common trait of banks that often makes them suitable for library remodel projects – came under consideration when it was put up for sale in January. The Library’s realtor arranged for a tour of the facility, and accompanied the Library’s Director, Assistant Director, and Business Administrator. The building boasts two large main floors, eight floors of total space, and just under 100 allocated parking spots. That initial tour deemed the site as worth pursuing.

However, a preliminary analysis conducted by a local structural engineer revealed the first two floors could support a live load of 100 pounds per square foot, below the recommended 150 pounds per square foot for libraries. The upper levels were even less suitable, capable of supporting just 50 pounds per square foot, rendering them unusable for any of our circulating collection.

Furthermore, with an asking price of $8.8 million and a rough remodel estimate provided by a local architecture firm of $35 million – $40 million for just the interior work on the first four floors, the total cost of renovations will far exceed conceptual projections. These estimates did not include necessary exterior work, parking, and more, which would have driven the final cost even higher. The cost alone makes the project financially unsound, especially when considering a recent estimate for the construction of a new library facility was approximately $50 million. It has become clear that renovating the FIB building will not be a cost-saving option and could potentially exceed the cost of a new building.

These initial reports revealed major flaws, which led the Library Trustees to abandon this concept as the potential new location for the Library.

The Natrona County Library is committed to maintaining valuable architecture in the downtown area and will continue to explore all avenues for acquiring a new library space that meets the needs of our patrons and community. Our current building, while cherished, is aging, and faces significant challenges that a new facility could resolve.

As always, the Library remains dedicated to serving as the cornerstone of an informed, connected, and thriving community. We are committed to providing a space where literacy, discovery, creation, and community building can flourish. We will continue to keep the community informed and involved as we move forward with our plans to secure a new library facility.

For more information, feel free to give us a call at 577.7323.

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