North Bergen is working on plans to move the Downtown Library into a bigger space in the former Kennedy Furniture store site in the next few years.
In July, the Board of Commissioners adopted a $4.5 million bond ordinance to purchase several properties in town. One of those is the former store at 13th Street and Kennedy Blvd. The building was severely damaged in a fire last December and has been closed since.
Should the town’s ongoing negotiations with store owners be successful, work would begin on an unspecified date in the few years. Officials say the current Downtown Library at 2123 Kennedy Blvd. is too small to properly serve the township’s growing needs.
“Our current library is bursting at the seams,” said Revenue and Finance Commissioner Julio Marenco. “It’s become a community center.”
“The town has events, the library has events, the afterschool students are doing their homework there and getting tutoring,” Marenco said. “We didn’t know the response would be this great where we started a library down there [in 2013]. So this is the natural progression of things.”
The North Bergen library system also has an Uptown Library at 84-11 Bergenline Ave.
“Our current library is bursting at the seams.” – Julio Marenco
The new library would be a multi-use facility, allowing the branch to expand its services and provide space for additional uses such as senior activities and community rooms. However, the building’s final uses will depend on a final architectural plan to be completed after the site purchase, and on input from local residents.
Marenco said North Bergen wants the space because it is in a centralized location. “If you look at the town, that is probably the center of downtown,” he said. “If you were to measure from around 32nd Street down to the border, it’s almost in the middle. And it’s a great location right on Kennedy Blvd., so bus access. There’s parking on the side. We just want a safe spot.”
The location is also near planned residential units on Patereson Plank Road. “So that’s more residents coming to that area,” Marenco said.
Library Director Sai Rao called the expansion her “dream project.”
“The Downtown Library definitely needs to be expanded,” she said. “We’ve outgrown our space. So with the new library, we’re thinking about a lot of community services in the building itself. Very unique programming is going to happen in that building.”
Echoing Marenco, Rao added that “the space is the greatest because it’s right on Kennedy Boulevard. We have a presence on Bergenline Avenue. We will now have a presence downtown and on Kennedy. People coming from Bergenline can come more easily; they can take the bus to both locations.”
Rao said that other municipal departments, such as the Health and Recreation Departments, could also use the space for various activities.
“I commend the vision the town has for the library and the community appreciates it, too,” Rao said.
She said she expects the location to open no later than early 2020.
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