A $1 million renovation of the Atascocita Branch Library will be used to enhance community engagement and accommodate dozens of new voting machines.
The county is reviewing bids on the project now. A timeline will be determined once a contractor is selected. The expansion was approved as part of Harris County’s 2021-2022 Capital Improvement Program.
The expansion is estimated to cost about $1 million for a 2,500 square foot addition that would host community meetings and be used as a “storytelling space.” Additionally, it will serve as a temporary or early voting location with an approximate capacity for 72 machines. The parking lot is also going to be expanded to create more spaces along Pinehurst Trail Drive.
Atascocita Library Branch Manager Beth Krippell said that the expansion is long overdue, as Atascocita does not currently have a dedicated community center. The library is approaching its 25th anniversary and was built in at a time when the community was half the size it is now.
“The library has been fitting that particular niche in the community, and of course, we are a growing community,” said Krippell.
Kippell said that the library would like to be a voting center now, but it’s meeting room cannot meet the demands of the area. The expansion would allow the library to serve the community better, she said.
“Being able to have a place where, not only can the community come together and interact and learn from each other, but local businesses can explore that connection outside of their usual office hours as well,” said Krippell. “Whether you’re a parent or student or a business owner or a senior, the library has something going on.”
Several local community members are also working together to improve the library. Best Buy awarded the Friends of Atascocita Library a grant for audio-visual equipment for the library’s upcoming A/V club for teens.
“Being able to have a dedicated room to that programming allows the community to explore a lot of visual equipment cameras and software and podcasting equipment and explore those creative endeavors in the library,” said Krippell.
The Kingwood Branch Library could also receive an expansion as part of the county’s Capital Improvement Program, if approved. Harris County commissioners must agree to add the project to the budget.
The estimated $750,000 expansion would add a community recreational center that would alleviate overcrowding and accommodate more voting machines. According to the county, the project would consider an exterior enclosed walkway in addition to the new recreational center.
“Kingwood is one of the branches that we have that consistently is backed up during polling or voting times,” said Edward Melton, Director of Harris County Public Library. “We looked at what it would take to expand in order to create more opportunities, or more space, available for more polling.”