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Independence Library Gets New Lease In Same Old Digs, For $21K A Month

By Patty Wetli | September 27, 2016 6:03am
 Supporters rallied for a permanent home for the Independence Library, closed following a fire in the adjacent building.
Supporters rallied for a permanent home for the Independence Library, closed following a fire in the adjacent building.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

IRVING PARK — The Independence Branch Library, closed for a year due to fire damage, will reopen in the same rented digs while the city continues to pursue a permanent home for the 100-year-old branch, according to Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).

In his weekly email newsletter, Ramirez-Rosa informed constituents that an ordinance was introduced to City Council for the library to re-occupy 3542-3552 W. Irving Park Road, while the city negotiates with the property's owner to buy the land.

"If the sale is not possible, the city has approved a lease at this location that would allow the branch to reopen at 3542-3552 West Irving Park Road while the city explores purchasing other properties in the area," Ramirez-Rosa said in his email.

The lease would be valid from 2017 through 2023 unless otherwise terminated. According to the contract, the city will pay $21,450 in rent per month in 2017. The amount increases annually, up to nearly $25,000 per month in 2023.

Compared with the branch's $250,000 to $300,000 in annual rent, the new Albany Park branch library, which opened in 2014, cost $15 million to build.

The city is also on the hook with the Independence lease for 100 percent of the water and sewer bill, as well as 78 percent of the property's real estate taxes and cleaning, lighting and snow removal for the sidewalk, alley and parking lot.

In October 2015, an extra-alarm fire destroyed the building adjacent to the library, which itself suffered smoke and water damage.

The fire spawned a campaign to create a permanent home for the Independence branch, which has been housed in a series of temporary leased locations since its founding in 1889, including 20 years at the Irving Park Road address.

Residents complained about the library's shabby conditions, outdated technology, cramped space and lack of parking.

At a community meeting in March, neighbors were informed the Independence branch would reopen in the leased storefront after renovations, though library commissioner Brian Bannon said he was "definitely interested" in continuing discussions regarding "a larger vision."

"The city heard our community's message loud and clear that day — we want a permanent branch — and since then the city has been working diligently to make a new permanent branch a reality," Ramirez-Rosa said.

A representative for the New Independence Library coalition declined to comment on the ongoing property negotiations, as did a spokesman for Chicago Public Library.

"I can say that we remain committed to finding the best long-term solution for library services in the neighborhood," Patrick Molloy, library spokesman, responded via email.

The 100-year-old Independence branch is one of the most-used in the city, but remains housed in a cramped storefront. The photo was taken shortly after the 2015 fire; the building on the right has been demolished. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

The Independence library remains closed, with its facade boarded up during renovations. A new lease has been signed on the storefront, good from 2017 to 2023.

Independence Branch Library Lease by DNAinfo Chicago on Scribd

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