BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Book lovers on Bridgeport's East Side got a surprise holiday gift Friday, as the public library system announced it has acquired properties for two new branches in addition to the one it announced last summer.
New branches -- with state-of-the-art computer tech centers -- are now planned for a former Salvation Army store at the corner of East Main and Shelton streets on the lower East Side, and 1174 E. Main St. on the upper East Side, the site of the former Hibachi Buffet and FitzWilly's Restaurant.
The Bridgeport Public Library and Reading Room previously announced it had acquired the former Charles D. Smith Center at 755 Central Ave.
“These are very exciting times," said library board member Anne Cunningham. "For us, it’s not just about building brick-and-mortar structures, but creating spaces of wonder where children can imagine a bright new future and begin to build it for themselves and their community.”
The acquisitions are in line with the goals of the board's Library Master Plan and Library Referendum to restore and improve facilities in strategic locations across Bridgeport. In recent years, the system has extended hours, improved collections and expanded programming.
Funding has been established through bonding approved by the City Council that will be repaid from the library fund as budgeted by the library board, so there will be no increase in taxes.
The costs will not be known until construction drawings are out to bid, said Library Board President Jim O'Donnell. Architects are projecting a Spring 2017 completion for the Upper East Side and Newfield branches and another nine to 12 months for the Lower East Side branch, he said.
The original Newfield Branch, with its iconic fireplaces and high-vaulted ceiling, will be expanded with a new structure on an adjacent parcel to provide about 11,000 additional square feet. The new branch will incorporate library collections, a tech center and community meeting rooms.
"Libraries are the gate to the future, and as a resident of the East End, I am so excited about the opportunities that the new Newfield Branch will bring to the neighborhood," said board member Phylicia Brown.
The Hibachi/FitzWilly’s site will replace the Old Mill Green Branch, more than doubling the available space and adding future expansion possibilities.
The former Salvation Army location will require more extensive renovations, including the installation of an elevator, to serve more than 14,000 square feet over three floors in the heart of the East Side.
Judge William Holden, chairman of the Library Building Committee, and board President Jim O'Donnell said Antinozzi Associates is preparing schematic drawings. The board will work with community members to solicit input.
The board will coordinate with Bridgeport's Small & Minority Business Resources Center to ensure the bid process attracts contractors who will employ city residents.
For more information, visit www.bportlibrary.org .
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