A residential home is demolished at what will be the site of a new Lake Stevens Library on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Sophia Gates / The Herald).

A residential home is demolished at what will be the site of a new Lake Stevens Library on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Sophia Gates / The Herald).

Site clearing begins for new Lake Stevens library

The initial work on Chapel Hill property brings dream of a new library closer to reality.

LAKE STEVENS —The excavator’s arm plunged into the roof of a vacant house in the Chapel Hill neighborhood Wednesday morning.

A handful of onlookers affiliated with Sno-Isle Libraries watched and took photos of the site clearing for what will one day be the permanent home of the Lake Stevens Library.

It’s been a long time coming for the project.

The effort to build a new library began years ago. The Sno-Isle Libraries purchased the four-and-a-half acre property in 2016.

In both 2017 and 2018, the library board placed a bond measure on the ballot to secure funds for construction of a new, larger building. The bond vote failed both times, the first time due to insufficient voter turnout, and the second because it got only 51% of the vote, less than the required 60%.

Meanwhile, in May 2021, the library vacated its old location in North Cove Park so that the city could complete a park expansion. Since then, the library has operated out of temporary locations, first as a pop-up in Lundeen Park, and soon after, moving to a former police station at 2211 Grade Road.

Then, in January 2022, city leaders proposed cutting ties with the library district as part of a plan to raise funds for a $30 million civic center, souring relations with Sno-Isle Libraries. The city quickly abandoned the idea after a public outcry.

In November, the city council voted to rezone the land once intended for the civic center, located beside the library district’s Chapel Hill property, making it available for commercial use. Community development director Russell Wright explained at a City Council meeting at the time that the city couldn’t afford to complete the civic center project.

The library district anticipates opening the new location in 2025. Community members will have the opportunity to offer feedback as the design process, already in early conceptual stages, gets underway.

“That’s really gonna be a key point of focus for us this year,” said Chy Ross, assistant director of capital strategy and planning for the Sno-Isle Libraries. “Taking that concept and turning it into something realistic that we can then eventually bid out for construction and get built.”

A residential home is demolished at what will be the site of a new Lake Stevens Library on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Sophia Gates / The Herald).

A residential home is demolished at what will be the site of a new Lake Stevens Library on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Sophia Gates / The Herald).

Architects from BuildingWork will design the new library, which Ross said will have an early learning focus and prioritize outdoor education spaces. He also said that the building will have rooms for community members to meet, collaborate and study.

Construction of the new library is funded in part by $3.1 million in state grants, which have matching requirements for the library district. The district is primarily funded by the Sno-Isle Libraries property-tax levy.

The site is expected to be cleared by Friday. Sno-Isle Libraries allowed Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue to use two houses on the property to train and practice “venting,” cutting holes in a roof to allow smoke and gas to escape.

The property offers some unique natural features that Sno-Isle Libraries is planning to preserve, including glacial erratic boulders, or rocks carried by a glacier to a non-native area. One of the grayish stones sits wedged in what was once a front yard.

A treeline marks wetlands at the back of the property, which the library district plans to maintain.

“We’re working in partnership with the Snohomish Conservation District as well as the city, and then our own contractors and specialists in order to really do the right thing with the wetlands,” Ross said. “So it’s gonna be a really, I think, beautiful natural setting in addition to being a wonderful civic space for the community to come into.”

Several Sno-Isle library projects are underway, including a remodel of the Darrington Library expected to be completed by this fall.

A public groundbreaking ceremony is planned for the future library.

“There are a lot of people in Lake Stevens … that love libraries,” said Paul Ryan, a Lake Stevens resident and member of the Sno-Isle Libraries Board of Trustees. “And there’s just a level of excitement right now for what’s to come here in Lake Stevens.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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