SNOHOMISH — The City Council took a decisive step Tuesday toward tearing down a boxy addition to the Carnegie library building and restoring the main historic structure.
The council-endorsed plan includes a new park where the 1960s-era annex now stands, at Cedar Avenue and First Street. The proposal passed on a 5-2 vote. It commits the city to further studies that could bring the renovation closer to reality.
“We are gratified that we were heard, but even more gratified that people came out to support the project,” said Terry Lippincott of the nonprofit Snohomish Carnegie Foundation.
A few years from now, Lippincott predicted, “It’s going to feel like it’s always been there, the jewel of the town, a little New England square-type concept.”
Tuesday’s vote took place in a Snohomish Senior Center room that attendees said was packed, overwhelmingly with people who favored the plan. It followed a series of meetings about the Carnegie library’s future.
The council’s action authorized city staff to have an architect develop 30 percent designs for the restoration work.
Councilmen Larry Countryman and Steve Dana opposed that course of action.
The council also could have directed city staff to put the work on hold.
Built in 1910 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic foundation, the building was Snohomish’s main library for nearly a century. Amid rapid growth, a one-story addition was completed in 1968. The add-on took out the main entrance and wrapped around two sides of the building.
“It was utilitarian, it did its job and now it needs to go,” Lippincott said.
The actual library relocated in 2003. After that, the building was used for special events. It’s owned by the city.
In the years since 2004, the City Council has reviewed different restoration plans and previously voted to tear down the 1968 wing. There have been some upgrades, including a seismic retrofit in 2013.
The building closed to the public last year because of the annex’s leaky roof and other problems.
Some in town want to restore the earlier look, in keeping with Snohomish’s historic riverfront district.
Others consider the mid-century add-on part of the building’s heritage.
A leading opponent of the current restoration plan is local activist Bill Betten. Last year, Betten formed the nonprofit 105 Cedar Avenue Foundation, named after the building’s address.
He wants to preserve all of the building, including the annex. He wants to see the space used for community events and meetings — even though others say its state of disrepair is too advanced to warrant saving. He doesn’t believe the renovation is a good use of taxpayer money.
Betten has suggested the city might give a private company a crack at making over the building, like the McMenamins pub chain did with the historic Anderson School in downtown Bothell.
There are more steps ahead before any construction or demolition.
The city’s architect, Seattle-based ARC, is now tasked with refining floor and site plans, along with cost estimates, to be presented at another meeting a few months from now.
Top priorities for the project are: renovating the building’s upper room; making the building accessible to disabled patrons; replacing electrical, heating, ventilation and other systems, along with new windows and exterior; restoring the front entrance that’s covered by the annex; and creating a park where the annex now stands.
The city could use nearly $1.7 million in accumulated real estate excise tax and utility funds for the project.
“We think we have nearly enough money to cover our five priorities,” Councilwoman Karen Guzak said. “We’ll find out more when we get to early design.”
In addition to the money it has on hand, Snohomish has applied for a $1.9 million state grant. The project appears to be in line for $500,000 in this year’s state capital budget.
Some of that money could go toward a second phase of construction to address the building’s basement, develop the park as a veterans memorial and build out the back entrance.