By GSN News Staff
The Town of Gilbert is considering new plans to increase parking at the popular Southeast Regional Library and replace the property’s non-functioning water feature.
Councilman Scott Anderson led a task force charged with coming up with alternatives to a plan that would repair the oft-broken water feature.
Officially known as the Spirit of Partnership Fountain, the feature was built to commemorate the partnership between Gilbert and Salt River Project that brought irrigation to the town.
Issues with the fountain’s pumps and pipes that have rendered it unusable.
Anderson said the group first looked at the possibility of fixing the fountain’s infrastructure, but found that alternative plans were the better choice.
“In my mind, that is the definition of insanity because (the fountain) just doesn’t work,” Anderson said at a Town Council meeting in June.
At that meeting, Town Engineer David Fabiano presented the task force’s findings and a new plan for the project.
The new plan calls for the water feature to be replaced by landscaping. It will still include some drainage pipes to deal with flooding during storms but not an active fountain.
The plan includes aspects of a design created by architecture and landscape students from Arizona State University who were commissioned by the town several years ago to come up with alternative designs for the site.
At the time, student teams presented concepts to the Parks and Recreation Board and one was selected by the board. However, the project was shelved soon after that.
Anderson requested that the task force use aspects of that selected ASU project and the staff ultimately incorporated the palette of plants, linear connectivity and a raised pedestrian table from the student pitch.
That raised pedestrian table will provide improved sidewalk access to the library for pedestrians, people in wheelchairs and others traveling to the bus pullout.
“That is one thing that was talked about – the ability to make the mobility more appropriate,” Fabiano said.
The proposed plan also includes improvements to the library’s parking situation, which currently is a source of frustration for many residents, Anderson said.
The plan would add 58 additional parking spots to the library, a 25 percent increase, Fabiano said.
Fabiano said the Southeast Regional Library currently serves nearly 750,000 visitors a year, making it the busiest library in the Maricopa County Library System.
Add in the neighboring Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch and the site sees approximately one million visitors every year.
“That’s a lot of people using that parking lot, and I cannot tell you how many times people complained to me during events that they couldn’t find parking,” Anderson said.
In addition to increasing the amount of parking, the plan would also provide connectivity between the two parking lots that library visitors use.
Currently, the library has two separate parking lots – one off of Greenfield Road and one off of Guadalupe Road – divided by an inaccessible median. The new plan would connect the two lots to increase circulation within the parking lots without requiring drivers to exit onto the road to visit the other side of the facility.
The plan also calls for the town to remove two driveways, one from each parking lot, that are no longer designed to the town’s safety guidelines to limit unsafe turns out of the library.
The plan would also add designated right-turn lanes into the facility off of Greenfield and Guadalupe Roads.
“They do not (currently) have those turn pockets,” Fabiano said. “They should have those turn pockets because of the amount of traffic that goes into them, and it’s an unsafe condition.”
Fabiano estimated that the current plan would cost $3 million.
The project will not be funded until next year at the earliest as initial funding for Southeast Regional Library water feature project set aside in this year’s budget was part of the $1 million cut from the capital improvement budget in order to make an early payment on 2008 GO bonds.