Proposed Rouzan library long way from reality, but library director ‘very hopeful’

While preliminary plans for a new south branch library in Rouzan were unveiled Tuesday night at a community meeting in Southdowns, the new facility is far from a done deal and is still some years from becoming a reality.

“We’re very hopeful about this,” says Library Director Spencer Watts. “We’re very positive. But it’s still in the initial stages.”

The proposed library has a budget of some $6.75 million, and would be a neighborhood branch—as opposed to a regional facility—of about 15,000 square feet.

Money for the project was set aside years ago by the East Baton Rouge Library Board of Control, which has been searching for a south branch site since its original plans to build the library in Rouzan, then under the ownership of developer Tommy Spinosa, fell through in 2013.

Earlier this year, an investment group led by John Engquist and Charles Landry acquired Rouzan and revived talks with the library system. In a matter of weeks, they reached a preliminary agreement with the library system to sell a 1.75-acre tract of undeveloped land at the intersection of Glasgow Avenue and Tupello Street, near the periphery of the Traditional Neighborhood Development, for the new library.

The sale price for the land, which has not yet been publicly disclosed, is included in the total budget for the project, Watts says.

Library board members have been briefed by Watts individually about the proposal and seem enthusiastic, he says. But the board as a whole has not seen a formal proposal for the project. That will come at the board’s meeting on Thursday, March 15.

“That’s when the board will get a real good idea of what the possibilities and potentials are,” Watts says. “But that is just the beginning of the process. As a governmental body, they have a very specific, lengthy public process they must go through.”

Part of that process will include hiring an architect and contractors. In the meantime, however, Steve Oubre, the TND consultant and architect working on Rouzan, has done several conceptual renderings of a library on the site to show the library board and the community what it could look like. The contemporary structure allows for plenty of natural light and has large meeting spaces that would be available for the neighborhood to use for community gatherings.

Watts says though the search for a south branch library has taken years, the demand for the facility is greater than ever—even though digital publications have taken the place of certain books and periodicals.

“Our libraries are extraordinarily busy and the libraries we design now help people not only come in and find books, which are still a mainstay and important function, but we hook them up with technology and online resources,” he says. “Our visitor and usage levels are high and we have continuing demand from the public and this area doesn’t have a facility.”

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