WOODLAWN — New Chicago Public Library branches will be built in three neighborhoods on the South and West sides, library leaders announced Friday.
The Chicago Public Library will use $18 million in capital bonds to build a new Woodlawn branch, officials said. Two new libraries will also be built as part of mixed-use developments in Back of the Yards and Humboldt Park, they said.
“We are proud to invest in our neighborhoods through the creation of mixed-use developments and look forward to seeing these new libraries become hubs of activity and lifelong learning,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement.
The new Woodlawn location would replace the neighborhood’s existing public library, the Bessie Coleman branch library at 731 E. 63rd St., spokesperson Patrick Molloy said Monday.
The location, timeline and budget for the new Coleman branch are yet to be determined, Molloy said. He did not answer questions about the future of the old Coleman branch, which opened in 1993.
The $18 million will not be spent on the branch library to be located at the Obama Presidential Center, Molloy said. The Obama Foundation and the city tentatively agreed in 2018 to a seven-year, rent-free lease for a 5,000-square foot Chicago Public Library at the Obama Center.
The Back of the Yards branch will be part of the former Aronson Furniture site redevelopment at 4630 S. Ashland Ave., officials said. It will replace the neighborhood’s existing library, which has been located inside Back of the Yards College Prep Academy since the school opened in 2013.
The public library in the high school was touted as an upgrade, since the previous library was in a strip mall. But residents have questioned for years why their neighborhood doesn’t have a freestanding branch library and said sharing the library with the high school makes access difficult.
State Rep. Theresa Mah secured $15 million in state funding for the library in 2020, but officials struggled for years to finalize a location.
“By integrating this library branch into a mixed-use development with residential units onsite, we are working to intentionally foster a learning- and health-centered neighborhood here in Back of the Yards that is inclusive of our cultural richness and diversity,” Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said in a statement.
The Humboldt Park branch will be part of the Team Pioneros project, a $55.3 million planned redevelopment of the vacant Pioneer Bank at the northwest corner of North Avenue and Pulaski Road. The property has sat vacant for more than a decade.
The library “will be an amazing addition to our collective growth as a community, particularly as we develop the Puerto Rican collection, which will add new dimensions to the historical presence and persistence of Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park and in the city of Chicago,” said José López, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
All three libraries will include an early childhood learning space and programs for area children, teens and families, including access to the YOUmedia program and free homework assistance through the Teacher in the Library program, officials said.
Book clubs, educational and cultural programs, computer classes and one-on-one digital literacy coaching for adults and seniors will also be located at the new branches.
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