The old Dollar General store in Columbia’s Edgewood neighborhood will be nearly unrecognizable in about another year.
Plans are taking shape there – near the Drew Wellness Center – for the first public library in four decades amid some of the city’s historically black communities. It will be a long-awaited source of opportunity for the many low- to moderate-income residents who live in Edgewood, Celia Saxon, Waverly and other nearby neighborhoods.
But the library is still at least a year and about $650,000 away from opening its doors, Richland Library Director Melanie Huggins said.
About a year ago, the library announced its plan to lease the 7,000-square-foot former Dollar General building from the Columbia Housing Authority for $1 a month, turning it into the first walking-distance library for many residents since the Waverly branch on Gervais Street closed in 1971.
The closest library branches are on North Main Street, Assembly Street and Woodrow Street in Old Shandon. They are 2 to 3 1/2 miles from the planned Edgewood branch and can be difficult to access for residents who lack reliable transportation.
The prospect of the return of a public library is bringing a renewed sense of pride to the community, said County Councilman Seth Rose, who represents the area.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Rose said. “There’s a lot of kids in the area that will benefit from access to books, the internet and just a nice place to go and explore the world.”
Community members have told library planners they want to have a safe gathering place for children after school and in the summertime, activities and services for senior citizens, opportunities to enhance job skills and early literacy programs, Huggins said.
The library will offer all that as well as the one thing most residents are looking forward to: free internet access.
Design plans probably will be shared with the community for feedback in July or August, Huggins said.
There’s still about a $650,000 funding gap before organizers reach the $2.4 million goal to open the library, Huggins said.
The library expects to make up some of that money with the upcoming sale of its former Sandhills location, Huggins said. And Rose said he hopes to see Richland County Council and Columbia City Council commit some money, too.
Huggins and Rose said they are confident the Edgewood library will open in 2018, hopefully within the first half of the year.
“We’re trying to build the facility the community wants, and we don’t want to scale it back,” Rose said. “We want what the community deserves, and we want a top-notch facility for the area, as other areas have.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.