APPLETON (NBC 26) — It was once a former Best Buy. Then, it sat vacant for months. Now soon, 2411 South Kensington Drive will become the Appleton Public Library’s temporary home.
"This property really became the ideal site," said Collen Rortvedt, Library Director. “It really was a limited selection. Things like access, things like ease of in-and-out, things like being on a bus line, things like being able to connect fiber to the library for internet connectivity.”
The move was approved by the Appleton Public Library Board of Trustees at Wednesday evening's board meeting. This comes as the library is set to undergo a major renovation and expansion that will last over the course of 18 months. City officials chose this site based on a review of available facilities that could meet the needs of a temporary library in a safe, accessible and cost-efficient way. Operating expenses of the move and temporary location will be covered largely by existing operating funds for the library and supplemented by project funds.
Library users will expect to see a scaled-down version of the current library, with emphasis placed on providing ongoing access to the library collection as the renovation project downtown takes place.
While many of us drive by vacant buildings like Best Buys, Sears or Shopko and think about the negative economic implications, commercial real estate agents believe these large empty spaces can really come in clutch.
“It's a great thing when empty buildings can be utilized, period." said Manny Vasquez, Vice President of Business Development for Pfefferle. "It beats having them sit vacant, right?”
This Best Buy, like other former big box stores, is currently being used for COVID testing by the Appleton Health Department. Testing set at this location will end on February 25th, and the transition to the temporary library will happen early in the spring.
“I think it is positive to have space available, especially when we are temporarily used to using them as COVID testing sites, specifically now as cases are spiking up," said Vasquez.
And if not for this empty space, Rortvedt isn't sure where the library would be able to provide the community with these essential resources.
“In the pandemic, I think it's really illustrated even more how much the library plays various roles in people's life," she said. "The thing that's complicated about a library is everybody that walks through the door has a different need.”
Even as society continues to shift into the digital age of working from home and online shopping, there is so much potential for these vacant spaces in the future, said Vasquez.
“There are some pretty cool projects in other parts of the country where a former big box space was turned into multifamilies or senior housing or medical apartments, office space," he said. "So the sky's the limit. The question is, who's going to take that risk?”
“The facility is ideal to serve as a temporary library as it can be used with little modifications, said Dean Gazza, Project Manager. “Overall, we were looking for a location that not only could provide good library services, but also to do so economically during construction of the new library.”
You can stay up to date on the building project by visiting apl.org/building.