The revitalization of the former Independence Regional Health Center is aiming to birth new business ventures in Independence.

The revitalization of the former Independence Regional Health Center is aiming to birth new business ventures in Independence.
However, it will also provide a temporary location for a decades-old library while its existing space receives a makeover.
Dick Wilding, director of libraries for Mid-Continent Public Library, announced Thursday night the former hospital on West Truman Road – now known as the Independence Entrepreneurship Center – will serve as a relocation site for the North Independence Branch when it undergoes a year of renovations.
The existing 43,000-square-foot library at 317 W. U.S. 24 will relocate into about one-fourth of the space in early October, Wilding said. The Mid-Continent Public Library anticipates seeking contractor bids for its $3.5 million project in August.
About 30 residents gathered Thursday night in the North Independence Branch’s former genealogy center, a room now filled with empty shelving and signs still hanging where certain materials once sat. The forum served as a follow-up meeting to the October 2008 gathering in which about 50 residents provided feedback on possible renovations.
“Last year – when the genealogy building moved – that gave us the opportunity to try to fix up all of the flaws in the building and try to do something more modern,” Wilding said, citing such building flaws as heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems that need to be replaced and patchwork carpeting that disguises rippled carpeting underneath.  
The branch’s basement now contains rarely used archival materials like bound periodicals, Wilding said. Renovations would open the basement to residents and allow them to utilize reference work space, and space would be conserved with compact shelving. 
The renovated library also includes plans for a drive-up window where residents may pick up their reserved library items – but only those held items, Wilding said. This feature will be bid as an optional feature, but the library must remain within its budget constraints, Wilding said.
The North Independence Branch moved to its existing location in 1970, with its rear addition taking place in 1988. In 1996, the genealogy addition was built, only to be replaced in 2008 with the new Midwest Genealogy Center on Lee’s Summit Road in Independence.
Though Mid-Continent Public Library had originally planned for an additional community forum in mid-January with contractor bidding taking place in the spring, the timeline just didn’t come together, Wilding said.
“I’m always so aggressive in when I think things are going to be ready that it didn’t work out, plus we had to examine our budget again,” he said. “I kind of slowed it down a bit to see what was going to happen.”
Using the Springfield, Mo.-based Library Station as a model, Mid-Continent Public Library aims to develop a destination library in north Independence. A destination library is “a building that offers multiple reasons for a visit and is comfortable and diverse enough to encourage that visit to be a lengthy one,” Wilding said.
“In essence, it’s a space for learning and for community,” he said.
Theme ideas like three trails, Americana, a travel through time and a firehouse were proposed in October, but Wilding said library officials considered the social history of Independence as a theme as it would encompass what residents did in their everyday lives.
A theme isn’t set in stone yet, though. One resident questioned whether theme ideas had to be included with the renovations.
“If we bump up against our budget, we’ll have to take another look, but we have to paint anyway,” Wilding replied. “You have to decorate it with something. It (the theme) offers more endless opportunity.”

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