Editor's Note: As we pause to celebrate the holidays and reflect on the year, we are shining fresh light this week on some of the brightest good news stories of 2018. The stories have been updated to include new developments since their original publication. The following is an update of a story that appeared on the front of the local section on May 9. The original story is included below the update, by reporter Stephen Williams.
SCHENECTADY -- National Library Week will be April 7-13, and Karen Bradley would love to see the new Mont Pleasant Library branch cut its opening ribbon then.
The director of the Schenectady County Library System just might get her wish, though there are no guarantees, given weather and other factors.
Work on the $2.6 million library on Crane Street in Mont Pleasant is getting close to the point where crews will be able to work indoors through the winter. The walls and roof are up, and within the next few days, doors and windows will be installed.
At that point, workers can bring in temporary heat as they continue working inside the 5,000-square-foot building, located next to the current library branch.
The old library is aging and officials see it as inadequate for modern library needs. The new library will have new options for activity space -- something community members asked for -- with a focus on literacy for both children and adults.
The county's goal is to have basic construction essentially finished in mid-February, which would allow crews to move on to the next phase: installing book shelves, setting up furniture and installing the security cameras and technology infrastructure essential to modern libraries. With any luck, that can be done by mid-April.
With the theme of National Library Week next year being "Libraries = Strong Communities," Bradley thinks that week would be "a wonderful time for our grand opening."
SCHENECTADY -- The new Mont Pleasant Library should be completed in February, Schenectady County officials said as they broke ground for the $3 million project on Tuesday.
The new county library branch will rise at the corner of Crane Street and 6th Avenue, next door to the current library. It is the former site of Chubby's Pizza and a derelict property the county obtained last year following a city foreclosure on Chubby's.
"This will have a transformative impact on the neighborhood," said county Library Director Karen Bradley.
After the city closed Chubby's -- which had been the site of hundreds of police calls -- the land was aquired by the city Industrial Development Agency. The IDA gave it to the county for the new library, which officials see as a vital to improving a poor and struggling neighborhood.
"This is a great example of inter-governmental cooperation," said county Legislator Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, during a sunny groundbreaking ceremony attended by about 80 city and county officials, donors, and local residents.
The former Chubby's was demolished last year; the site has already been leveled. General contractor VMJR Companies of Glens Falls is expected to start work within days.
Officials in general see a new library as helping transform the neighborhood, having a similar impact to the construction of the Bornt Branch several years ago on Hamilton Hill. Like the Bornt Branch, the new library will be a "literacy center" with a strong emphasis on improving literacy for both children and adults.
"This new larger branch will allow us to better-engage children and families with exciting new services," said county Legislator Rich Patierne, chairman of the County Legislature's Committee on Libraries and Education.
The county is putting up $1.6 million of the cost, and private fundraising has raised more than $1 million from philanthropic foundations and individuals. There also may be some construction grant money from the $34 million state library capital construction budget, said state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam.
"No other investment would have had the impact that the Bornt Branch had," Santabarbara said. "I grew up around the corner from here. This was my library, where I learned to read. This library will have a similar impact to what the Bornt Branch had."
County officials said the current library lacks adequate space, parking, handicapped access and other amenities. Bradley said the current library lent 3,000 books last month, and the new library should be a lot busier.
"The key thing here is we will have activity space. The community is really looking forward to that," Bradley said. "There will be space for activities, space for community meetings."
Once the library is finished, the current library will be demolished for expanded library parking.
"We have seen the positive impact that investments in a new building like this can have on the neighborhood, becoming a catalyst for continued additional development," Hughes said. "The project is replacing blighted buildings with a positive direction for the Crane Street business corridor."
The new library was designed by Re4orm Architecture of Schenectady.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.