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Library is scrambling to find temporary home

Once the dust settles, library patrons will have a state-of-the-art facility on Paula Drive, complete with books, magazines and meeting rooms. But for now, library officials are scrambling to find a temporary home for those books, magazines and patrons.

"We want to move quickly, secure a site and make moving arrangements so we can start construction on time," said library manager Suzie George.

Ground breaking on the $8.6-million library overhaul is scheduled for next spring, with completion expected about a year later.

Officials had hoped to keep the library open through construction but later deemed that unsafe. Finding a temporary home, however, is proving to be a challenge. So, some time after Jan. 1, the library could close.

"Working with the real estate department, we've toured three sites with five options available," George said. "One seems promising, but we don't know if they're willing to lease to us."

Library officials thought they would be calling the abandoned Eckerd Pharmacy at Waters Avenue and Wilsky Boulevard home for the next 1 1/2 years. But they lost out to a company that could sign a longer lease.

George said library officials hope to be able to ask county commissioners to approve a lease for temporary quarters by Jan. 1.

The rebuilding of Westgate Library is part of the Town 'N Country Community Plan, a blueprint that calls for creation of a pedestrian-friendly downtown at Paula and Ambassador drives.

Adopted in 2003, the plan calls for a neourban, town center-style neighborhood that mixes homes with retail sections.

The county will build a 30,000-square-foot Head Start center and a 20,000-square-foot senior center, as well as the new 25,000-square-foot library in the "town center."

"We'll be part of a community complex," George said.

Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 269-5308 or ripley@sptimes.com.

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