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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK David Johnson, executive director of the Fayetteville Public Library, gives final instructions Tuesday, marking the beginning of the demolition of the old City Hospital building for the library expansion. The building, formally dedicated in 1912, has to be demolished in order to make room for a planned 70,000-square-foot expansion of the library.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The crowd cheered as a chunk of wall crumbled off the old City Hospital building Tuesday. Jeannie Barber, a nurse who worked there for 15 years, said it was a bittersweet moment.

"It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," she said.

Commemorative bricks available

The library will offer City Hospital bricks to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 19-21 at the northwest corner of West Avenue and Rock Street. The bricks are available on a first come, first served basis and are free to anyone who would like some. Please note no one will be available to help load the bricks. The remainder of the bricks will be ground up and used in the expansion.

Source: Fayetteville Public Library

The gathering at the site of the old building near Rock Street and School Avenue signified the first physical move to expand the Fayetteville Public Library.

The site has to be cleared for the expansion. Tuesday's event culminated with a trackhoe from Oelke Construction knocking out a wall of the old City Hospital.

"The public library expansion will go beyond expectations about what a library can provide, proving that dreams are not constrained by space," Executive Director David Johnson said. "This is only possible by the amazing people in this community."

Voters in August 2016 approved a millage increase to build a 70,000-square-foot addition to the library. The extra space will double the size of youth services and add an innovation center and 700-seat multipurpose venue. A genealogy and local history section will be added, with more meeting, study and collaboration space. A courtyard with plenty of green space will go outside. The library also will hold more materials.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan, who was born at the more-than-100-year-old facility, said, "The space will grow just as Fayetteville grows -- providing expanded programs and services, and serving as a central center for connecting our citizens to knowledge and information."

Litigation held up the rights to the land for five years. The state Supreme Court ruled in March 2017 in favor of Washington Regional Medical Center, which owned the land at the time and sought to sell it for the library expansion.

The millage increase is expected to generate about $26.9 million to pay for construction bonds. The Fayetteville Public Library Foundation has set out to raise an extra $23 million needed to get the job done.

"We have a very solid plan, but it starts with pretty quiet recruiting," said Mike Russell, president of the foundation.

The foundation will roll out its "Beyond Words" fundraising campaign over the next three to four months, Russell said. The effort will become increasingly visible with neighborhood events and online engagement.

Demolition of the old City Hospital building is scheduled to take about three months. Grading, moving utilities and site preparation will be after that. Crossland Construction will start building the expansion early next year, with work set to wrap by summer 2020.

The land City Hospital sits on was deeded to the city by the Stone family in 1906 as a charitable gift. The hospital was formally dedicated in 1912, although its construction may have finished sooner than that, according to local historian Jerry Hogan. A church next door was built around 1940 and also will be demolished.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK David Johnson (from left), executive director of the Fayetteville Public Library, speaks Tuesday with Jim and Nancy Blair before a formal ceremony marking the beginning of the demolition of the old City Hospital building for the expansion of the Fayetteville Public Library.

City Hospital, originally two stories, went through several transformations over the years. The most significant change came in the 1980s, when the core of the building was gutted and a remodeled facility emerged.

Genny Sparkman was human resources coordinator during the building's time as a long-term care facility. The facility closed in 2012, but the five years Sparkman worked there left a lasting impression, she said.

"I've never been to a facility that felt so much like, literally, a family," Sparkman said. "There was such a level of care and compassion."

Jane Nemetz, who served as the facility's administrator from 2000 to 2012, said the building reminded her of a butterfly. It changed over time and now will move to its next phase, she said.

"To me, it's just like morphing into the next level of teaching, learning, caring and compassion," she said.

NW News on 07/18/2018

Print Headline: Building demolished to make way for library expansion

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