Hoping to find approach for co-locating library branch, Merriam postpones meeting to unveil initial community center design concepts

The existing Merriam Aquatic Center is part of the site of a new $30 million community center and pool complex. Merriam and library officials continue to discuss the idea of locating the library branch nearby as well.

The city of Merriam announced Tuesday that it would postpone a community open house scheduled for next week where it planned to unveil initial design concepts for its $30 million community and aquatic center.

The city of Merriam and the Johnson County Library have been in talks about possibly relocating the Antioch branch to the grounds of the new community center.

The move comes as city officials and representatives of the Johnson County Library continue discussions about the possibility of re-locating the Antioch branch from its current site onto the community center grounds, which include the current pool site and neighboring Varva Park.

The opportunity to co-locate the library branch and the community center was of great interest to both parties, who saw a chance to create a hub of community activity the promoted cross-traffic to both facilities. But planners initial concept for the incorporation of a library branch into the site raised concerns for library administrators. The concept called for the library branch to be built on the south part of the project site, which would put it at the top of a steep grade.

Last month, on the recommendation of County Librarian Sean Casserley, the library board voted to explore options for a re-built Antioch branch beyond just the community center site, including rebuilding at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Antioch.

Merriam City Administrator Chris Engel said the decision to postpone the planned open house was based on a desire to continue talks with the library and ensure that the concepts the city presented to residents were current. He offered the following statement:

We continue to partner with the Library to explore how the shared site would benefit both community center and library patrons, many of whom are the same people. As discussions advance, new opportunities arise that we must collectively pursue because this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. While we are excited to share our progress with the public, we need to make sure what we present is timely and relevant. The Library remains committed to exploring an opportunity to build a new library in Merriam, the City is committed to delivering on a new community center, and both organizations remain committed to exploring the possibility of co-locating on one site for the benefit of all taxpayers.

A library spokesman reports that, “The Library continues to study options and opportunities for the Antioch Library, and we look forward to a meaningful working relationship with the City of Merriam as we proceed.”

The timeline for the project calls for the initial site plan/building feel designs to be completed around the end of May, with more detailed building layout plans developed by the end of June. The goal is to have a finished design before the council for approval by the end of July.

The city had initially set two public open houses for the preliminary design phases, one May 9 and one June 21. The city has not announced when it will reschedule the postponed May 9 event.