City Approves Land Purchase for Chinatown library

By Casey Cora on January 17, 2013 2:15pm 

 Residents have complained that the Chicago Public Library's Chinatown branch is cramped and crowded. The City Council on Thursday approved the purchase of land that will soon become a new, bigger branch.
Residents have complained that the Chicago Public Library's Chinatown branch is cramped and crowded. The City Council on Thursday approved the purchase of land that will soon become a new, bigger branch.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CITY HALL — The City Council on Thursday approved the purchase of three parcels of land, paving the way for the construction of a new library in Chinatown.

“Although today's process was relatively brief, it is the outcome of many, many years of advocacy and the hard work of a lot of people,” said C.W. Chan, chair of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community.

The measure passed unanimously.

Library officials have said the city will use $15 million in tax increment financing to purchase the land at 2101-2115 S. Archer Ave., 2100-2110 S. Wentworth Ave. and 2114 S. Wentworth Ave.

Negotiations between the city and those lot owners is expected to begin soon.

Chan said groups like the CBCAC have for years pushed for the a new library, saying the existing facility at 2353 S. Wentworth Ave. — which the city rents from a private landlord — is heavily used and often cramped.

"It's one of the most highly-used libraries in the system and education is very important in the Chinatown community," he said. "Put two and two together, and when we witness people sitting on the floors waiting their turn [for computers], something had to be done," he said. 

Plans for the new library call for a large reading room, meeting spaces, state-of-the-art technology and expanded on-street parking.

Earlier this year, residents learned of a plan to dedicate two floors for library space inside a proposed mixed-use development at Wentworth Street and Archer Avenue.

Those plans called for the library to be housed atop a food court and retail stores but were later scrapped after a surprise announcement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to use TIF money for a host of new projects on the Near South Side, including a new Chinatown library.

Construction of the new facility could begin later this year and will wrap up in roughly two years, library officials have said.

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