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Payne-Phalen neighborhood gathers feedback for future of Arlington Hills Library

Last month, the District 5 Planning Council in St. Paul hosted a community meeting to talk about the future of the Arlington Hills Library’s historic building.

Soon, the library's holdings will go to a new space in the in-progress Payne-Maryland community center, while the vintage Carnegie library building will be repurposed.  

The city plans to issue a request for proposals for the building later this year, intending to sell or lease the building further down the line. In the meantime, the St. Paul library system is serving as a go-between for the city and the community to help guide the next steps.  

Leslie McMurray, who leads the District 5 council, says that the community has long had an interest in what happens to the building, which she describes as a neighborhood treasure.

At the March meeting, attendees helped come up with a set of values and ideals that could form a framework for the building’s planning process. The gist of it is that many people feel the library’s uniqueness is something to build on. They think “it should be a public space, a destination with a unique purpose,” she says.

Some of the ideas that they considered include turning it into an art space or performance venue; a learning center with a focus on literacy or East Side history; or an open civic space of some sort, she says. The words “intergenerational” and “multicultural,” came up, as did the idea of the building having multiple uses, she adds.

“I found it gratifying to hear all of the different ideas,” many of which seem complementary, says McMurray. “People left feeling they do have a stake in the future use of the building. It’s exciting to think about what might come in.”  

Right now, a 10-member advisory body is being organized to help continue this conversation. In the next few months, “We’d like everyone who is interested to weigh in,” she says.

Source: Leslie McMurray, District 5 Planning Council
Writer: Anna Pratt
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