League City officials considering options for Helen Hall Library

City officials agree: The Helen Hall Library is inadequate for League City’s constantly growing population, and it is about time something is done to improve it.

In early 2019, the city hired design firms PGAL and 720 Design to research League City’s library needs. The consultants found that the Helen Hall Library is too small for League City’s size when compared to similar cities.

Built in 1985, Helen Hall Library’s footprint is about 29,000 square feet, which equates to about 0.25 square feet per capita for League City’s population of about 106,000. The state standard for library size is 1 square foot per capita, and the average for a city of League City’s size is about 0.51, which means Helen Hall Library is at least half the size it should be for today’s residents, said Maureen Arndt with 720 Design.

Furthermore, League City is expected to cap at a population of about 200,000 once build-out is complete, which will make the library’s existing size even more inadequate, officials said.

Additionally, the library lacks many of the amenities of modern libraries that residents have expressed interested in, such as study rooms and collaborative areas, Arndt said.

“We need to expand a lot,” library board Chairman Tommy Frankovich said. “It’s something that’s been needed for years.”

Knowing League City’s library needs, PGAL and 720 Design came up with four options to address the problems.

The first option would include building the first city’s first west side library at 42,000 square feet by 2023, building the city’s first east side library at 42,000 square feet and expanding the west side library by 40,000 square feet by 2028, and building a new 80,000-square-foot central library to replace Helen Hall by 2033. The total cost is estimated at $131.65 million.

The second option would include building a 42,000-square-foot west side library by 2023, building a new 80,000-square-foot central library by 2028, expanding the west side library by another 40,000 square feet by 2033, building a 42,000-square-foot east side library by 2038, and expanding the east side library by 40,000 square feet by 2043. The total cost of this option is estimated at $157.45 million.

The third option would include building a new 122,000-square-foot central library by 2025 and expanding it by 50,000 square feet by 2030. The total cost is estimated at about $106.6 million.

The final option would include building a new 170,000-square-foot central library by 2025 at a cost of about $105 million.

The options sound enticing, but Frankovich knows they are not possible at this time, he said.

“We know we’re not gonna get $150 million,” Frankovich said. “That is a dream of what may come in another many years. We need to know what we need right now.”

The library board is in the process of considering the consultants’ options and will likely come up with a hybrid option that is cheaper than the consultants’ recommendations. Right now, members favor a west side library and upgrading Helen Hall, Frankovich said.

Once a consensus is reached, the board will present a recommendation to League City City Council, he said.

Part of the library’s first floor flooded in December, which could influence what recommendation the board makes.

“With this flooding ... we’re having to remodel the whole thing anyway,” Frankovich said.

Whatever is chosen, the matter could come to a referendum next year or possibly earlier. Some council members and Frankovich believe the decision should go before voters if the cost is likely to raise property taxes.

Either way, Frankovich is happy the library is getting some attention.

“People don’t think a library’s still needed ... but a lot of people still like to have a book in their hand,” he said.
By Jake Magee

Editor, Bay Area & Pearland/Friendswood

Jake has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper. Today, he covers everything from aerospace to transportation to flood mitigation.



(Jake Magee/Community Impact Newspaper)
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