The city of Merriam and the Johnson County Library will present results of an agreed upon site plan for a proposed shared site with its Antioch branch and the city’s new community center slated to open in 2020.
The results come after a joint study in which both parties examined options to co-locate.
The Johnson County Library Board rejected an initial site layout plan in April due to the proposed positioning of its building on the new community center’s site at Vavra Park, 6040 Slater St.
“Until we had actually walked the property with city officials, we didn’t realize the steepness of the grade variance,” Director Sean Casserley told The Star of the original plan. “It would be really nice to have the community center on the same grade level.”
After listening to the board’s feedback, both parties decided against the first plan and said they were “hopeful” they would find a solution that satisfies the city and the library.
The “sticking point” for the plan to work, Casserley says, is that both buildings are adjacent, giving visitors the convenience of parking once and visiting two locations.
“A person should be able to park and go and exercise in the community center and then walk across a short distance and pick up a library book,” Casserley says.
The study, made up of a combined eight staff members from both the city and the library, examined layout options that would meet both parties’ needs.
“The benefit of sharing the site is we serve the same group of residents,” Merriam Assistant City Administrator Meredith Hauck says. “The same person coming to the library is the same person who will come to the pool. It’s so close to the site anyway.”
The two have been in talks of a partnership that would replace the library’s Antioch branch at 8700 Shawnee Mission Parkway. Casserley says the Antioch branch, which was built in the 1950s, is dated and doesn’t meet residents’ needs in the current digital age.
“Back in the ‘50s it wasn’t the same type of infrastructure you need for technology... Computers and all those types of things that modern buildings need,” Casserley told The Star. “What we are seeing is just a naturally aging of that building.”
Casserley says as the community changes with technological advances, so do the amenities visitors look for when visiting a library.
Among those amenities are more power outlets for people to charge their own devices, meetings rooms where they can collaborate on projects, and convertible spaces from small to large that accommodate study groups and business meetings.
“A community needs those kinds of spaces,” Casserley says of the proposed collaborative work spaces. “If you are trying to work together, the cost shouldn’t be a barrier for you to do that.”
Merriam residents voted in September to build a $30 million facility, rather than spending $20 million to renovate the existing Irene B. French Community Center at 5701 Merriam Drive.
The 66,000-square-foot community center — paid for through a 10-year, quarter-cent sales tax, which took effect Jan. 1 — will include indoor and outdoor pools, a state-of-the art fitness center, an indoor walking track, and a child watch area along with free WiFi and a lounge area.
City and library staff presented the preliminary findings to city council members at a June 11 work session. The group will present the same findings to the library board June 14. Both parties will determine the best way to move forward once they’ve reviewed the results.
City staff will share the plans with residents at a June 21 open house at Merriam City Hall.