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Deschutes Public Library System may spend $10.25 million to buy new Central Library site in SE Bend

Smaller, more costly site than proposed north Bend location that ran into city land-use problems

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Three months after Bend city councilors poured cold water on a proposed north Bend site for the Deschutes Public Library’s 100,000-square-foot Central Library, the Library Board agreed Wednesday to look at buying a new parcel on the opposite, southeast end of town -- for a substantially higher amount.

The board held an hour-long executive session, as allowed for real estate discussions, then voted 4-1 to enter into a letter of intent and put $200,000 in earnest money down on spending $10.25 million to buy nearly 9.4 acres of land at the northeast corner of Southeast 27th Street and Wilderness Way, north of the Humane Society of Central Oregon shelter.

The motion said the district will have 90 days from signing a purchase-sale agreement “to conduct due diligence” on the feasibility of building the library on the site, which is on the western edge of the property in the Stevens Ranch master plan – which means it’s already in the city limits, unlike the hurdle faced on the north end of town.

In March, Bend city councilors rejected an amendment to the city’s development code that would have required a master plan for the original proposed main library site, along Highway 20 near O.B. Riley Road, across from the Cascade Village Shopping Center.  

The library district had sought an exception from a master planning requirement, as neighboring property owners weren’t ready to join in such a move, as required.

The district bought that nearly 13-acre parcel west of Robal Road for $1.35 million in January of 2020, before winning voter approval in November of that year of a $195 million bond measure to build the new facility and improve the library’s existing branches.

Library Director Todd Dunkelberg said Wednesday the district still owns the Robal Lane property and “the board has not yet made a decision on its future.” It could be sold, or could be held for future library needs as the community grows.

Wednesday’s lone no vote on the letter of intent for the new site was library board member Ray Miao, who said he agreed with his colleagues that it would be an “excellent location” and that the seller’s agreement to take care of several infrastructure needs is helpful.

But Miao said the board should have discussed and learned more about the impacts of the higher price tag on the size of the library and what programs it could offer, before agreeing to a letter of intent to buy the land.

Other board members said those questions are key and the answers would be crucial when deciding whether to proceed after the 90-day due diligence period.

Board member Anne Ness said the site has “great access” and is in “an area of great growth In Bend.” And like her colleagues, she said the priority will be maintaining the planned quality of programs and services, over the size and design of the new building.

Board member Ann Malkin said, “During the original property search, we were looking for land on the east side, but this and many others were not available.”

Colleague Cynthia Claridge noted that “many organizations would benefit from being close to the library” and that she would be “really surprised” if Cascades East Transit didn’t favor putting a transit facility at or near that location.

Dunkelberg noted that the new parcel is three acres smaller than they bought at Robal Lane, “so having ‘extra’ land to sell is speculative at this point. We need to work with our architect design team to assess how much of the land we will actually be able to use.”

He also said that “based on our land search, that (price tag) is at or below the average cost per square feet of other properties.”

If all goes as planned, Dunkelberg said the new library could be finished in the fall of 2025, about a year behind the initial schedule for the first site.

Article Topic Follows: Bend
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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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