ELLENTON -- The county is working on a deal to buy the former Roaring 20s restaurant in Ellenton to house the Rocky Bluff library.
The 10,000-square-foot building would more than double the size of the current library housed in a strip mall storefront next door. The new library will have room for meeting space, a children’s story time area, offices and even a coffee bar. In addition it offers 170 parking spaces.
There are still a few details to be finalized before the county can purchase the property, but officials feel good about the deal they are getting. The property was offered for $3.9 million two years ago along with just over 4 acres off U.S. 301.
Since then the property has gone into foreclosure and the county has negotiated a deal with Zions First National Bank, who held the mortgage, to buy the building and nearly 10 acres for $700,000. Since the foreclosure, the building has suffered some damage, including air conditioner units that have been stolen and some vandalism. The county plans to spend about $300,000 to repair the building.
Still officials estimate that they can pay for the new library over 20 years with the money -- about $80,000 a year -- they were already spending to lease the library’s current storefront location. In addition, the county will look for grants and other money to offset costs.
“It’s best for the county to get out of the rental situation,” said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.
“We will get out of that with this. It will take a tight squeeze to make the economic works, but we think we can do it.”
County commissioners, who learned about the plan during a workshop Tuesday, were optimistic about the idea.
Commissioner Joe McClash even suggested that the county lease some space to a coffee shop to recoup some of the cost of buying and repairing the building.
Cheri Coryea, director of neighborhood services, said there is an opportunity to do that because the building already includes a bar with the necessary electrical outlets.
“Let’s make this an example of what we can do and see if it works,” McClash said.
Parrish residents have been asking for a new library for several years.
The current Rocky Bluff branch is the smallest of the county’s six libraries but still has 102,500 visitors a year.
Coryea said county staff has talked to the friends of the library group and to some Parrish residents and they are in favor of the location.
The county had been searching for a new library location but property was either too expensive or required building, which was also cost prohibitive.