Building a new library near Main Street will also require unusual cooperation and collaboration from both our county and city governments. Before I explain, let me summarize the situation.
- Prince George's County wants to rebuild the Laurel Library at its current location at Seventh and Talbot.
- However, the current location has challenges. The property is not large enough to support a new building along with all the necessary parking spaces.
- The county would need to acquire additional land from the city to support the new building project.
- The need for a larger parcel opens up the opportunity to consider other building locations.
- The City of Laurel has the old Police Station property at 350 Municipal Square. It's one block off Main Street and right along the river. The city would like to sell this 1.8 acre property and 19,000 square foot building for 2.5 million dollars.
I agree with BOLD but I would like to go a bit further and suggest that the city simply give, not sell, the old Police Station property to the county for the new library. The city has the most to gain from moving the library downtown. While 2.5 million dollars is a lot of money that could be used for many other city projects, I believe that this is a small price to pay to help revitalize Main Street.
This 2.5 million dollar gift should come with three conditions. First, that the city and county would jointly appoint a dedicated planning commission to design the building and grounds of the new library. Second, the city would get final approval of the county's site and building plan. Third, the county would agree to buy the property on the northwest corner that sits between the old Police Station and the river, highlighted in red below.
This is obviously an aggressive plan. It will cost both the city and county significant resources, not just money, but also time and attention. The city has a long history of augmenting county services with city tax dollars. For example, the city has contributed over $250,000 per year towards the county's fire and ambulance services. I think it is entirely reasonable for the city to contribute funding that will lead directly to augmenting Main Street's revitalization.
This plan also requires that both county and city governments to work together on the project in good faith and for the benefit of all. It will be difficult because governments rarely share the same priorities or have business and planning processes that are compatible. But the enhanced library and learning center that could result from this cooperation will be so much better than what either government could possible accomplish alone.
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