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Construction starts on $15.5M International District library

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Work has begun on the International District library on Central Avenue. The 25,000-square-foot library, shown in this RMKM Architecture rendering, is on the site of a former nightclub. (Source: City Of Albuquerque)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Where once night owls danced and imbibed, children will soon gather for story time.

Work has commenced on the long-planned International District library on a Central Avenue lot that for decades housed the Caravan East nightclub.

The project – which will cost $15.5 million to build – will feature books and computers, but also a story plaza and a community room that Albuquerque Cultural Services Director Shelle Sanchez said would be “a beautiful nod” to the demolished nightclub it replaced.

“It is going to have hardwood floors in that community room, and sometimes there might be artists or writers presenting, and sometimes there might be dance classes,” she said. “So, some of you who are reminiscing, you’ll have your moment in the new library.”

State appropriations, city general obligation bond funding and a $1 million donation from the Freedman Trust made the project possible, officials said during a Thursday groundbreaking attended by several elected leaders.

City Councilor Pat Davis, the neighborhood’s representative, said planning for an International District library had already begun by the time he took office in 2015, but there was still much to settle.

“When we started, it was about half-funded thanks to legislators and city voters, and community organizers who helped, but it didn’t have a home,” said Davis, whose predecessor, Rey Garduño, had championed the project. “When we saw the historic Caravan becoming vacant, we saw an opportunity not to create another dilapidated building in this neighborhood, but to create the home we’d been looking for to be the catalyst for redevelopment of this part of our city.”

Mayor Tim Keller called the library a “gigantic” investment in the International District that required the collaboration of many people over many years. He said he remembered allocating money for the project back during his days as the area’s state senator more than five years ago.

The district’s current state senator, Democrat Mimi Stewart, said the 25,000-square-foot project is monumental for an area that often feels neglected.

“We want as a community … to stop being forgotten and this is one of the best ways you can feel that in our neighborhoods,” she said.

The library is expected to open in 15 to 18 months.

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