An Indianapolis company wants to build apartments where the Olathe Downtown Library is now, but library director Emily Baker assures residents that a public/private partnership is in the works to create a bigger, more modern library downtown.
The Milhaus development company is proposing to replace the library and its parking lot with two four-story apartment buildings containing 170 market-rate units, ground-floor office space and on-site amenities, said Emily Carrillo, senior planner for the city of Olathe. That development, southeast of Chestnut and Park streets, is known as Chestnut South.
A companion project, Chestnut North, calls for 70 market-rate units in a four-story building to replace a city-owned parking lot on the southwest corner of Santa Fe and Chestnut streets. That building also would house 1,746 square feet of ground-floor retail, Carrillo said.
In response to neighborhood concerns, the developer has reduced the number of units and added parking. The Olathe City Council expects to consider the revised proposal on Nov. 19.
Olathe has been taking steps for several years now to liven up its downtown. In early 2017, the city signaled it was willing to sell the library property by issuing a formal invitation to developers interested in building on that property, as well as the Chestnut North site and a third property.
In a posting on the Olathe Public Library website, Baker acknowledged that the development proposal had raised questions about the future of library services downtown.
“I can tell you, I’ve never been more excited about our downtown library’s future than I am right now,” Baker wrote. “Soon, we’ll plan to be able to share information about a public private partnership in our downtown that’s set to bring a new, updated library that will meet our needs today and tomorrow.”
She said the plans call for much more space, the latest technology, plenty of public computers and printers and “a commons area for meeting friends, enjoying a book or catching up on business or school work.
“A series of meeting rooms will provide space for business collaboration, club meetings, group study or even a place to work on a personal hobby or project,” she added. “And yes, there will be all of your favorite materials to check out and take home whether the latest best seller or that recent movie you did not make it to.”
City spokesman Tim Danneberg said the location of the new library cannot be divulged yet.
A new or renovated downtown location was part of a master plan created in 2012 for the library system. Just last month, another recommendation became reality when a new Indian Creek Library opened in a former Hy-Vee grocery store at 16100 E. Santa Fe St.
The master plan called for substantially expanding the Indian Creek Library, then at 12990 S. Black Bob Road, and either enlarging or replacing the downtown building at 201 E. Park St., which was built in 1979. The document also eliminated earlier proposals to build branches elsewhere.
In 2016, however, a burst water main forced the closure of the Indian Creek branch, which moved to a shopping center before opening Oct. 19 in the former grocery store.
With Indian Creek finished, Baker wrote, the library system is turning its attention to downtown, “and it’s happening more quickly than I could ever have hoped for.”