Project plans for the county's new Wildwood Crest Library Branch were discussed at a public meeting May 16, which included an overview of the new library's floor plan, potential parking options and an approximate project timeline.

The county purchased the former Masonic Lodge at 6300 Atlantic Ave. from the borough of Wildwood Crest for $1 million in August 2011, with plans to renovate and convert the building into the county library system's newest library branch, which will replace the borough's existing library on Ocean Avenue between Wisteria and Columbine roads.

The existing library was built about 40 years ago and is 5,808 square feet, while the lodge's building, on Atlantic Avenue between Wisteria and Columbine roads, is 8,000 square feet.

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The county's original plan was to simply renovate the building, which was budgeted as a $1.2 million project. But it was later discovered that a large portion of the lodge's building - its second addition - wasn't in adequate shape for renovation and had to be demolished to meet the new library's needs.

"It wasn't as well constructed as the first phase of the building," said Joseph Powell, a representative of Buell Kratzer Powell, the architecture firm hired by the county to oversee the library project.

"The existing floor wouldn't have been able to hold the bookshelves," added Cape May County's Director of Facilities and Services Ann Marie McMahon."Then when we realized the need for an additional meeting room, it just snowballed from there."

The final estimate for the project is now $3 million and will include the demolition of the southwest portion of the building and a new addition during reconstruction. Demolition is set to begin between September and October, with a projected completion time set for around Easter of the following year.

The new building will incorporate some the Wildwoods' doo wop elements, including wavy building parts, colored glass and lights, and table umbrellas.

"We really tried to find out what made this place such a special, singular place, and we wanted to use that to make the building a dynamic, sustainable and functional celebration of this place, to make it an asset to the community," Powell said.

As for the interior, the first floor will include a large children's section, a joint adult and teen section, a cafe and a kitchen. The second floor will have a 16,000 square-foot distance learning room, bay windows with seating facing the ocean and a green roof surrounding an outdoor deck.

The green roof will be filled with plants that are specifically selected and designed to grow slowly and absorb the water with no need for maintenance. It's meant to protect the roof membrane and to give the deck color and life.

"The idea is that when you are on that deck you feel like you're someplace special, rather than on a roof somewhere," Powell said.

Several community members at the meeting voiced concern over the parking situation.

Director of the Cape May County Library Commission Deborah Poillon said the library commission is currently in negotiation with Atlantic City Electric to see if they can use the empty lot on the corner for additional parking. The borough is also working on a secondary location across the street near the tennis courts. The tennis courts will not be affected.

Wildwood Crest Mayor Carl Groon said the parking situation is expected to be resolved within six to nine months, but he guarantees there will be a minimum of 15 free off-street parking spots available to library patrons.

"If we can get the Atlantic City Electric lot, we will be in really good shape," Groon said. "Also, since we're no longer on the beach block, the pressure of beach parking won't affect us much."

Wildwood Crest resident David Williams, a member of the Crest Historical Society, also showed interest in the existing library building, asking whether the borough has plans for it.

"With our current museum we are in a lot of trouble," Williams said. "We have no lighting, no signage. That space would be great for us."

The mayor said the borough is making plans for that space.

"We have no interest at this time in selling the land or tearing it down," Groon said. "One idea is transport the historical center (currently located at Crest Pier) to that building, or moving Wildwood Crest Tourism Information center into that space, or to use it as a public meeting room on rental basis for special events."

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