In report to board, county librarian indicates positive discussions on rebuilding Antioch branch on Merriam community center grounds

County Librarian Sean Casserley indicated that talks with Merriam about co-locating a rebuilt Antioch branch had been positive.

A month after the organization’s board voted to begin exploring other options for the future of the Antioch branch over concerns about initial co-location designs presented by a team working on Merriam’s new $30 million community center, County Library Sean Casserley reported Thursday that renewed talks with the city have him optimistic about the potential for collaboration.

The initial schematics presented to library administrators called for the library building to be constructed at the southern end of the community center site on the grounds of the current Varva Park. The library would have been separated from the community center building by a parking lot and would have been at the top of a relatively steep grade. Library officials said those issues would have been a detriment to creating a true hub of community activity with much cross-traffic between the library and the community center.

Merriam and the library are looking at options for rebuilding the Antioch branch on the site of the new Merriam community and aquatic center.

After the library board’s April vote to look at other options, including rebuilding on the existing Antioch branch site at Antioch Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam postponed a planned community open house that had been set for May 9 so that designers could come back to the table with library officials to work through their concerns.

On Thursday, Casserley said that Merriam has been a “tremendous partner” in looking at ways to make the collaboration work, and that they “listened closely to the library about adjacency and what it is we’d need to make the site work.”

“They were very open to our thoughts, they could see our concerns, and were really committed to finding solutions with us and taking that next step,” Casserley told the board.

He indicated that he had been pleased with preliminary updated designs for the site that the Merriam team had presented, and that he anticipated being able to bring a conceptual layout to the board for their review at the June meeting.

Following the meeting, the library and Merriam issued a joint statement on the talks:

Johnson County Library and the City of Merriam are working together to explore options to co-locate Merriam’s new community center and a new Antioch branch of the Library at Varva Park, just east of IKEA. A joint study is underway to determine how locating both facilities on the same property could best serve visitors to these facilities. The findings from the study will be presented to our respective board and city council members in June.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, so spending the time to research all the available options is critical to ensuring our shared success. The Library and City of Merriam are both committed to do what’s best for our community. We look forward to sharing the results of these conversations as we proceed.

The community center site is on the grounds of the current pool and Varva Park, just east of IKEA.