OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced Tuesday that the city will relocate the W. Dale Clark Library to downtown.
Stothert said the city will move the library, currently located at 215 S. 15th St., to a new location at 1401 Jones St.
The city will lease the Jones Street property for 10 years with an opt-out possibility in five years. Stothert signed a letter of intent to lease the property from the White Lotus Group at an annual cost of $465,000.
The city will also move the Omaha Public Libraries administrative services to 84th and Frederick streets, formerly a Shopko location.
The mayor cited the Riverfront development as a reason for the relocation. The moves also bring to fruition a consultant’s repeated recommendations that the city replace the W. Dale Clark Library to a nearby location with about 30,000 square feet of space; and move its central distribution.
“The 2017 Master Plan described the W. Dale Clark library as dated, inefficient, and underutilized and said the building design makes it costly to operate,” a release from the mayor’s office states.
Preparations for the library’s move are slated to begin in the first months of 2022, ahead of the city’s planned opening of the Riverfront on Memorial Day weekend.
As for the current W. Dale Clark Library? The mayor says the city owns the property. There is lots of interest in it. She says she doesn’t know what it will be as of now. She says she would like to see a building go up there that would “change Omaha’s Skyline.”
— Ashly Richardson WOWT (@AshlyWOWT) November 23, 2021
Officials estimate the cost to renovate the library’s new location at $3 million, with the White Lotus Group footing splitting the bill with the city, which plans to fund its half using the General Fund, bonds, and savings incurred by relocating the branch and administrative operations.
“New development brings new employees, residents, and amenities to downtown Omaha — it’s all connected. In its 2017 report, Himmel & Wilson recognized that public libraries are important for economic revitalization and community transformation. That’s what we will accomplish by implementing the recommendations of the Facilities Master Plan.”
Mayor Stothert also dispelling rumors that this move is connected to privatizing the Omaha Library system.
“That was a false rumor that somebody started and I don’t know why they did it but it is false and we will remain Omaha Public Libraries,” said Stothert.
Instead, she says this is all about timing.
Construction on the Gene Leahy Mall will be finished by Memorial Day… and interest in that area is heating up.
“The west end of the Gene Leahey mall is a key component to our riverfront redevelopment and there is a lot of interest from multiple developers for this property,” said Stothert.
Since the city owns that land — it gets to control what development comes in.
“I would want something that would really change Omaha’s skyline. I would want something that when you see a picture of Omaha in the future, you see the woodman, you see the first national bank building and you are going to see something else big there. Tall. That’s what I would like to see,” Stothert said.
Mayor Stothert said in Tuesday’s press conference the city is working to make that happen but she doesn’t have any announcements just yet.
Watch Tuesday’s news conference
Copyright 2021 WOWT. All rights reserved.