By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
KYLE – A late entry won a building committee’s recommendation Thursday night as the site for Kyle’s new library.
The committee voted, 6-1, to advise the city council that a $3.5 million library should be placed on the Miller property catty corner to the city square’s southwest. The property belongs to one of Kyle’s venerable families. The late James Miller served as Kyle’s mayor in the 1970s.
But the committee’s recommendation wasn’t so simple. Before voting in favor of the Miller property, the committee re-affirmed its commitment to, in effect, cap the library’s property acquisition cost at $350,000.
The Miller family almost certainly will want more than $350,000 for its 62,500-square-foot city block (about 1.5 acres), which includes two houses, two sheds and one historically significant structure – the city’s original carriage house.
For its second choice, the library building committee favored a site in Plum Creek’s developing “uptown” section. The site is located just to the northwest of the Hays CISD Performing Arts Center at Kyle Parkway and Kohler’s Krossing.
Though Benchmark Development is offering the Plum Creek site for free, an overwhelming desire to keep the library downtown prevailed among the committee members. On the ballot to pick the second-place recommendation, in fact, the old city square was the only other site to receive votes.
The proposal to place the library on the city square gained momentum in the last few months. Tom Searcy of the Kyle Area Seniors Zone presented a proposal Thursday night showing there’s enough room on the square to build a one-story library of 17,000 square feet, add another building of 3,000 square feet, maintain the 3,000-square-foot historic city hall and still keep about 25 percent of the green space on the square.
However, many who want to keep the library downtown (the present 2,000-square-foot library is located across from Kyle Elementary School) still don’t want it on the city square, which is protected as a state archaeological landmark. Any changes to the city square property require permitting from the Texas Historical Commission.
“What would placing a building (on the city square) do to some of the traditions me and my children look to?” said library building committee member Michele Jeanmarie, alluding to events such as the annual Christmas decorations. “I’m having a hard time negotiating having a building on such a beautiful piece of land.”
Meanwhile, members of two old Kyle families conspired with members of a third to bring the Miller property into the picture. About two weeks ago, Kyle preservation advocate Kate Johnson began wondering about the Miller land.
“When I realized they seemed to be considering the old city square, I thought we needed another downtown proposal,” Johnson said.
Wynette (Tutta) Barton approached the Millers to see if they would be interested in selling their property as a library site. The Word family (Barton’s birth family) and the Johnsons have both been in Kyle for so long that their brands are on the new Interstate-35 overpasses in town.
“They were a little surprised, but the family talked about it and they said, for a library, they would consider selling it,” Barton said of the Millers.
However, Barton added, the property constitutes the financial legacy the Millers have for passage to future generations, so the family will want a good price.
Before the vote on sites, Barton proposed that the library committee rescind its guideline to pay no more than ten percent of the total library project cost on land. As the city has put the library down for $3.5 million in its proposed capital improvement plan, that means the land could cost no more than $350,000.
However, the building committee voted, 4-2, to keep the ten percent cap in place. It will ultimately be up to the city council to decide where the library will be built, how much the facility will cost and how much will be paid for land.
Johnson, making the presentation for the Miller land before the committee, said the cost for the land is “negotiable.”
Various other site proposals fell by the wayside almost as they came up.
Peter French of Plum Creek offered three sites in his development’s uptown area, but the committee decided the best was the land near the PAC. An offer for land on the Target/Kohl’s development at Kyle Parkway and I-35 would cost about $500,000 just for the land.
An offer for a site at Center Street and I-35 is contingent on a $3.5 million road re-routing SH 150 east of the interstate. The road is among those being considered for inclusion in a county road bond vote. A site on Burleson Street next to St. Anthony Church was deemed too expensive.
In the end, the committee’s decision was driven by a sense that downtown is being neglected in favor of Kyle Parkway, along with a desire to keep the city square as parkland.
Though the general discussion calls for a facility between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet, some library advocates want the library to be larger. Johnson mentioned that San Marcos wants to expand its 27,000-square-foot library.
But the building committee turned up little disagreement about where it wants the facility located. The Miller property would expand the city’s footprint of civic monuments, give downtown an attraction and revitalize the city’s historic center. The Miller property is bordered by Hays Street on the north, Burleson Street on the east, Moore Street on the south and Nance Street on the west.
“The Millers are very interested in Kyle,” Johnson said. “They’re very interested in their history.”
But it remains to be seen if the city council will be interested in paying for their land.Email | Print