The Westonka Library in Mound is inching closer to being replaced with a larger, net-zero-energy facility that could be a model for future Hennepin County buildings.
County officials said in 2015 that the Westonka Library, which opened in 1972, needed to be replaced. Preliminary discussions took place two years later, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the project.
The County Board agreed Nov. 2 to spend $1.6 million on architectural design and engineering to replace the 8,600-square-foot building, which stands on about 1.7 acres on Commerce Boulevard in Mound. The new, 12,000-square-foot building will open in 2026 and cost about $17.5 million.
Planning for the project ramped up this year, and the public had several ways to provide input on the project.
"The good thing is they have actually listened to us," said Mound Mayor Jason Holt, who noted there has been a lot of community interest in the project. "It has been really cool to see it come together. The council is pretty excited about it."
Holt said the Planning Commission and City Council expect to consider finalized construction plans in the first half of 2024.
The environmental impact of the new library — or lack thereof — is what has the County Board most excited. When commissioners reviewed plans in late October they said it could be a future model for how the county designs buildings.
"I think we are all excited for this great example of innovation from the county and having this zero-net energy," said Commissioner Debbie Goettel, who represents District 5. "I think all of us are envious if it's not in our district."
The library will use geothermal and solar energy, and will not need natural gas or refrigerants for heating and cooling. The county intends to save established trees, landscape with native plants and contain nearly all stormwater on site.
As much as 75% of the existing building will be reused in some way or kept out of landfills, library officials say. That includes the reuse of wood beams from the original structure.
Scott Duimstra, Hennepin County Library director, said the new facility will be much more accessible and have more natural light to make it more inviting for visitors. He said improved technology and more space for community events also are planned.
During construction, the Westonka Library will be closed for 15 months beginning in late 2024. Now open six days a week, it logged 22,000 visits in 2022.
Library visitors will have to use facilities in Excelsior, Wayzata, Long Lake or other branches until the Westonka Libraryreopens in early 2026. Holt said the Mound City Council plans to urge county leaders to provide a temporary space, but one is not now planned.
"I know the council would like to see that," Holt said. "I'm also pragmatic, if it is cost prohibitive."