Johnson County Library has concerns with proposed site for relocating Antioch branch

County Librarian Sean Casserley said the proposed lay out of the site on the community center grounds wasn’t ideal from the library’s perspective.

Work exploring the prospect of rebuilding the dated Antioch library branch along Shawnee Mission Parkway on the site of the new Merriam Community Center a couple blocks away appears to have come to a hurdle.

At the Johnson County Library Board meeting last week, County Librarian Sean Casserley recommended that staff begin to explore options in addition to the Merriam Community Center relocation for the replacement of the Antioch branch.

Casserley said that initial design concepts provided to the library by Merriam’s community center design team raised concerns about accessibility. As envisioned by the community center team, the new community center would sit on the northern part of the site, which encompasses the current Merriam city pool and adjacent Varva Park. The potential location for the library would be on the southern part of the property, up a steep hill and separated from the community center by a parking lot, green space and road.

Casserley told the board that library planners thought the separation between the two facilities and the grade would reduce the likelihood of spillover foot traffic from one building to another.

“Johnson County was excited about this partnership because with preliminary discussions we believed that we would be in close proximity to the community center, and we could see a lot of synergies between the two organizations,” Casserley said. “But at this present location, it doesn’t allow for these joint activities.”

Casserley recommended that the board direct staff to “continue to look at the site and work with the city, but also to look at other options that might be available to us. That means the present site that we’re located on.”

He noted that the current site on the northeast corner of the intersection of Antioch and Shawnee Mission Parkway provides high visibility that would go away if the library relocated to the community center land. But choosing to rebuild on the current site would mean the library would not see proceeds from the sale of the current Antioch branch land — funds that the board believed would be available to them for the rebuilding process. Casserley said that loss of sales proceeds would be a factor in the considerations.

Board member Bethany Griffith said she supported the idea of exploring other options.

“I’m not going to sugar coat it — I think that this is a disappointment,” Griffith said of the design concept. “This is really a totally different animal than the original ideas when we were approached…That doesn’t change the fact that…we think Antioch needs to be done.”

Merriam finalized its design-build contract for construction of the new $30 million aquatic and community center last month.

Library board chair Nancy Hupp recused herself from the discussion and vote because she also sits on the Merriam City Council.

A steep grade from the proposed community center site to the proposed library site could pose a barrier for people walking from one building to the other.