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New Saunders Library To Be Built In Tampa In 2014

The old Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library near Ybor City will be torn down starting in December to make way for a new library at the same location. Plans call for the new library to be built in 2014 and open in 2015.

Construction on the $4.5 million, 25,000-square-foot library is expected to begin in January and will replace the nearly 45-year-old building currently located at 1505 N. Nebraska Ave. The new library construction continues the City's effort to invest in and improve neighborhoods just north of downtown Tampa.

"This will be marvelous for the community with Encore across the street with direct access to the library,'' says City Councilman Frank Reddick. "It's a project that many people have worked on for a lot of years.''

The existing library was built in the late 1960s and named for civil rights leader Robert W. Saunders Sr. Once known as The Scrub, the area was settled in the early 1900s by freed slaves after the Civil War.

The new two-story library will preserve the legacy of its namesake with a bust of Saunders in the existing library's reading area, and an African-American Research Library will become the central archive for historic documents and artifacts from notable local African American leaders and organizations. The Research Library will chronicle the history of the area and, according to Sells, will house numerous special collections.

"We're highlighting a lot of African-American history in Tampa,'' says Chief Library Renelda Sells.

Additionally, the new library will feature a bookstore, a recording room, a children's section and a 350-seat multipurpose room slated to include a portable stage for plays, concerts and banquets.

Booker T. Washington Elementary School students are expected to take advantage of these new spaces during school hours; a walkway currently connects the school building with the existing 7,300-square-foot, single-story library.

The current Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library will close on Sunday, December 1st, with new construction expected to see completion by anticipated by early 2015.

"We have been waiting a long time for this,'' says Fred Hearns, President of the Robert W. Saunders Foundation.

During construction, library patrons are encouraged to take advantage of the John F. Germany Public Library at 900 N. Ashley Dr., the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library at 2607 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the Seminole Heights Public Library at 4711 N. Central Ave.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Frank Reddick and Renelda Sells, City of Tampa; Fred Hearns, Robert W. Saunders Foundation
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