As I&S vice president Mark Cipos walked through the plans for the two-story 84-year old structure, he described the existing building as "pleasing," and having the potential to house "great energy."
Plans for the first floor include an expanded Witter Gallery at the forefront, flanked by gallery and CommUNITY Ed offices, as well as enclaves/collaborative spaces. Cipos said the gallery would be "front and center," featuring free-standing kiosks and art hanging systems highlighted by natural light, exposed brick walls and glass.
First floor outdoor elements include a workout area and plaza, which could be used for a large farmer's market.
Business is the main focus of second floor designs, including an institute in the existing auditorium balcony, educational spaces, offices/collaborative spaces and multi-purpose rooms. A Witter Gallery Walk would accommodate sculptures and large pieces of art, as well as provide a "kinetic hallway" for entrepreneurs to chat about ideas while looking down on the gym below.
Connection, community, energy, new tradition and multi-use were guiding design principles, Cipos said, noting walls can be opened up to allow for maximum use of spaces.
"It's important not to think too small," he said. "This could be an eye-opener and a magnet for the region."
While an expanded library at South School was part of preliminary design plans, I&S senior project coordinator Diane Behn said sight lines remained an issue, and a two-floor library was not an option due to staffing concerns.
Mayor Jon Kruse said he was pleased with the final design, which addresses unmet needs within the community, and noted some elements, such as auditorium changes and an expanded Witter Gallery, may occur in phases depending on high school needs and funding.
"Until we get to the final plan, there will be lots of discussion," he said, adding financing and more detailed plans will be worked out at a later date.
While two individuals in the audience expressed approval of the plana, one cited concern with the narrow first floor area allocated for the Witter Gallery.
Andriette Wickstrom, a long-time Storm Lake resident, said space for the gallery could pose a "major setback" since it is not as easily adaptable as the current location at the library.
"When people walk into Witter, they are impressed," she said. "I would like to see it stay with the library."
A feasibility study conducted by I&S earlier this spring indicated $1.2 million in upgrades, not including remodeling, would be needed to ensure the building is move-in ready. According to city clerk Justin Yarosevich, no cost estimates are yet available for the proposed project.