The former U.S. Bank building at 6700 W. North Ave., which is currently being renovated and expanded into a mixed-use building with apartments on the top two floors, may start accepting tenants as soon as next winter. But it remains unclear whether a new Galewood branch library will be part of it.
The redevelopment plans for the former U.S. Bank property were changed several times since 2019 and the pandemic slowed down construction, but all of the proposals included some kind of residential component and space for the new Galewood library.
Since 2010, the current Galewood-Mont Clare branch library has been confined to a single room at Rutherford Sayre Park Fieldhouse, 6871 W. Belden Ave. Many Galewood residents, including Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), have pushed for a larger location.
During his April 21 monthly victual community meeting, Taliaferro said that the ribbon-cutting may happen as soon as this fall, and he was hopeful that the new library branch will be part of the project. Property owner Viktor Jakovljevic expressed more caution, saying that he would start leasing the building this winter at the earliest. As for the library, while the money to fund staff appears to be an issue, none of the parties involved are sharing any details.
Jakovljevic is currently renovating the historic bank building and adding a third floor on top of it. Second and third floors will contain apartments. The first floor would be used for office and retail. The developer previously expressed willingness to lease 11,000 to 12,000 square feet for the Galewood branch.
Even before the pandemic, Galewood library’s size limited its collection and didn’t allow for amenities such as WiFi. Since it’s too small to allow for social distancing, it hasn’t reopened since the start of the pandemic.
The Chicago Public Library (CPL) system doesn’t have capital funding, so it must rely on other sources to cover the costs of getting a new branch up and running. In 2019, State Rep. Camille Lilly (78th) and State Sen. Don Harmon (39th) included a $600,000 appropriation for a new Galewood library in the Rebuild Illinois capital bill. The two legislators subsequently secured another $7 million. Neither fund is tied to any specific location and Lilly said that the funding can be used to either build a new library from scratch or build within a larger space.
CPL spokesperson Patrick Molloy said last fall that, while securing the funds was an important step, they were still discussing whether the branch would go into the U.S. Bank site. Taliaferro previously said that the main point of the contention was the terms of the lease. Jakovljevic wanted a longer lease while CPL was looking for something shorter.
During an interview conducted after his community meeting, Taliaferro said that “as of right now, we’re still discussing with the city how to pay for the operation of the library through the term of the lease.”
Lilly said she has no idea where the negotiations stand, but reiterated that the grant funding can’t be used for operations.
The rendering that’s currently on the development website includes a library branch in the east half of the first floor.