An arts and cultural center seemed to be the favored use for the former Los Gatos Library facility Monday evening after members of the Los Gatos Town Council heard proposals from four agencies with an interest on the site.
The agencies included the , the, the and the town itself. The building was vacated when Los Gatos opened a new library on Feb. 11 next door at 100 Villa Ave.
After hearing presentations from each one about their desires and wishes for the facility, Council members indicated they leaned toward the merging of an arts and culture center by getting Friends and Museums' representatives to work together to come up with a plan to combine both proposals.
Museums of Los Gatos Executive Director John C. Agg, accompanied by Emily Welch, exhibition manager, explained how being housed in two separate buildings—the Art Museum at 4 Tait Ave. and the History Museum at 75 Church St. "has been a hindrance and a detriment."
He further noted that the current locations aren't easily accessible and lack adequate parking and lighting.
"[We] have outgrown the confines of our present buildings and town-leased grounds. Put simply, we need more space for our ever-growing lecture series. We need more room for exhibits and for student artists, our young Museum Explorers, and our wise docents and educators. We need room to create, to build, to stretch, to paint, to see, to make music, to dance, to teach, to learn, to grow," Agg said.
Agg said that while he recognized there are competing demands for the approximately 11,900-square-foot building, the Museums are open and willing to work with other agencies to provide a collaborative plan that accommodates the best interests of the majority of demands.
On the upstairs floor of the facility, the Museums propose to have their exhibits in arts, history, dance and cultural fare and on the lower floor they propose to build meeting rooms, a kitchen and common areas with restrooms.
The Friends, who presented three proposals, want to mainly use the facility to open a bookstore on the top floor and have some storage space to house their donations.
Valerie Archer, Friends' incoming book sale chairperson, said a bookstore would fill a void in town and add money to town coffers. "Los Gatos needs a bookstore," she said. "The board is 100 percent behind this venture."
Archer said during the past few months, the nonprofit has proven that the proposal is a win-win situation for the town and for the Los Gatos Library, which will continue to need funding from the Friends.
The group continues to do fundraising with last year's total book sale totaling $18,000 and this year's totaling $27,000, Archer said. The group is being allowed to use a small space at the new library as a store test drive and making about $250 each time it's open. Its anticipated annual revenue is about $70,000, Archer added.
Archer said the Friends are also ready to pay for remodeling, furniture, fixtures and equipment, maintenance and payment of utilities.
A proposal presented by LGSUHSD Assistant Superintendent Tom Woodruff to use the facility for district administrative offices was unofficially rejected no matter how financially attractive it was.
Woodruff explained to the Council that the district would pay for all capital improvements, furniture, fixtures and equipment, maintenance of their space, about 6,000 square feet, and even pay rent to the tune of $9,000 a month.
And a proposal from town staff to use the facility for community meeting purposes and office space was also not as appealing as the possible merging of the Friends' bookstore and the Museums' arts and culture center.
Each agency had to answer a set of questions posed by town officials as to why their plans should be accepted.
According to a staff report, the facility has 145 off-street parking spaces and 147 on-street parking spaces for a total of 292 spaces, plus 12 spaces contractually provided at the Christian Science Church.
On March 15, the Council approved guiding principles and a process for considering options for re-use of the facility. Staff conducted a request-for-proposal process with a deadline of May 1. The town received seven proposals from the four organizations.
The facility will need to undergo some remodeling before any agency is allowed to use it such as the need to expand the top bathroom and the need to replace the air handling system, the parking requirements and the lack of funding for needed improvements.
It's not clear, however, who will pay for those upgrades and if the agencies allowed using the facility will pay rent to the town.
Environmental review may also be necessary about any plan and the Council asked for additional study on parking and funding options for the plans, which will return for Council consideration and further development in either June or later, town staff said.
The Civic Center Re-Use Project in the proposed fiscal year 2012-13—2015-16 capital improvement program identifies funding of approximately $1.9 million, including approximately $80,000 from Community Development Block Grant money and Americans with Disabilities Act purposes.
However, town officials said at this time it's uncertain if the funds will be available due to the dissolution of the RDA. Just the bathroom expansion is expected to cost more than $100,000, according to a staff report.
An ad-hock sub-committee consisting of Vice Mayor Barbara Spector and Councilwoman Diane McNutt and town staff has been guiding the process used to select the best use for the facility.
The committee will combine the applications from the Museums and the Friends and figure out how they can create a shared-use proposal for the space, said Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson.