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May 13, 2021

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Ridgefield library’s new home won’t require it to move

Donation will let it occupy entire community center, not just part of it

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
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4 Photos
Ridgefield Community Library occupies a quarter of the Ridgefield Community Center. The board of the nonprofit community center is donating the entire building for an expanded library.
Ridgefield Community Library occupies a quarter of the Ridgefield Community Center. The board of the nonprofit community center is donating the entire building for an expanded library. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

After a long search, Ridgefield has found a home for its updated and expanded library.

It’s the same building the Ridgefield Community Library has called home for 24 years, but now the library is getting the whole place.

The Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries board voted Monday to accept the donation of the Ridgefield Community Center building in downtown Ridgefield.

The library has occupied 2,055 square feet — about a quarter of the community center — since 1994. Library officials and community volunteers have been looking for a location suitable for a 10,000-square-foot facility.

Throughout the search, a downtown location has topped the priority list.

“For four years, we’ve struggled to find anything close,” Amelia Shelley, executive director of the library system, said at the May board meeting in the La Center Community Center.

With the branch at 210 N. Main Ave. in downtown Ridgefield, “We’re already there,” Shelley said. “This is our best option.”

“This site makes a lot of people happy,” board member Jane Higgins said before the 7-0 vote to accept the donation. “Everything else made people mad. I’m more interested in making people happy.”

City Manager Steve Stuart said that the city council “is excited to see an expanded library stay downtown, built at a relatively low cost and built sooner rather than later.”

Early in the planning process, “residents made it clear that they wanted a community library, not a commuter library. A community library is a center of gravity for bringing the community together,” Stuart said.

The community center is owned by a nonprofit organization, and its board of directors made the donation offer. The center was a product of a lot of community support more than 20 years ago.

“That building was built from grants, garage sales and donations,” said Jerry Stallings, president of the community center’s board of directors.

“About five of us have been maintaining and operating it — me, for close to 20 years — and we’re all getting 80 and older,” Stallings said. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to give something back to the city.”

“It’s an incredible gift,” Ridgefield librarian Sean McGill said.

The cost of renovation and expansion are estimated at $1.8 million to $2.2 million, Shelley said. That includes remodeling 8,000 square feet of existing structure and adding 3,200 square feet of new space on the back side of the building.

“The building needs seismic, HVAC, electrical, data and other upgrades as well as some improvements to meet code,” Shelley said. “It may need a fire suppression system. We’d add windows, new doors; it would be an extensive face lift inside and out.

“I would expect the next step will be to hire an architect to work with us and the community to design the interior spaces. We would have a better handle on our cost estimates at that time,” Shelley said.

The library board already has committed $1 million to the Ridgefield project, so more community fundraising is ahead. But having a location will make it easier.

“It’s a huge hurdle to clear,” McGill, the Ridgefield librarian, said. “Once the site is nailed down, it will be much easier to attract attention for the fundraising campaign.”

New public projects in Ridgefield will include meeting rooms to replace meeting space in the community center that will be converted into library facilities.

Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
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