Based on recent conversations between Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the long-dormant effort to move the Galewood-Montclare branch library into larger space appears to be back in motion.
The branch library is currently located inside of a single room at Rutherford Sayre Park Fieldhouse, 6871 W. Belden Ave. Galewood residents have been lobbying for years for a larger space.
The 2019 Rebuild Illinois state capital bill allocated up to $160,000 for a new branch. When Five Thirty One Partners LLC announced in 2019 its plans to redevelop the former U.S. Bank building at 6700 W. North Ave., they said that they would be willing to dedicate around 11,000 to 12,000 square feet of space for the new branch library.
During a community meeting on April 21, Taliaferro said that the proposal had stalled, because former Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn’t want the Chicago Public Library system to open new branches in leased spaces.
With Lightfoot now in office, it appears the city’s stance on the matter has changed. A few weeks before the April 21 meeting, Taliaferro said Lightfoot expressed willingness to revive the proposal and that he was contacted by library Commissioner Chris Brown.
Taliaferro added that representatives with Five Thirty One Partners are currently in conversation with Brown and city officials in an attempt to revive the proposal. The discussions are still in the early stages, but Taliaferro said the renovation work on the building has already gotten underway.
Five Thirty One Partners plans to build two new residential buildings totaling 59 units in the parking lot of the U.S. Bank building. In addition to a possible branch library, the development may also include a daycare center.
The Galewood-Montclare library has been at its current location since 2010. It was supposed to be a temporary measure after the previous location at Grand and Sayer avenues was closed due to a lengthy dispute with the building’s landlord over $70,000 in property taxes and assorted fees owed to the city.
The branch’s small size meant that it couldn’t accommodate amenities that are typical in other branches, such as in-library computers and printers. Galewood-Montclare is one of the four branches that has remained closed throughout the pandemic because patrons couldn’t safely socially distance.