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Vacant Rite Aid again in running for library branch

A vacant drug store on Broadway is in the running again to become the new South branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

Negotiations have begun to assume the lease of the former Rite Aid store, 1719 Broadway, while the library system continues to look for other sites, Chris Kozak, library spokesman, said.

“We want to take our time and make sure it's the best option for the community,” he said.

City Councilman Robert McCloskey, whose district includes the old south end, said he opposes the branch's move there, no matter how the vacant building is renovated.

“We wanted the library to be part of our renaissance” in South Toledo, Mr. McCloskey said. “We wanted something to make a statement about the South Toledo area. [The drug store] has no architectural value. It won't meet the needs of what we're trying to accomplish in the neighborhood.”

Mr. Kozak said if the branch moves into the former store, “We will not leave it simply as a box. We're looking to have a building that will be architecturally pleasing to the community, a place where people want to come and bring their families.”

A new South branch has been on the library system's to-do list since voters in 1995 approved a $38.6 million, 10-year bond issue that, so far, has funded the renovation and expansion of the main library, new Sanger and Point Place branches, and renovations at such branches as Holland, Kent, Maumee, and Mott.

All branches are to get a share of the money for improvements.

In the package, the library system budgeted $1.3 million for the South branch, now in an early 20th century building that is criticized by community activists as too small, inaccessible to people with disabilities, and unfit for new technology.

Councilman Louis Escobar said he would support using the drug store site, equating such a move with “taking what we would call a brownfield and making it green again. I think we have to commend the library for looking at different options.”

The move into the vacant Rite Aid was first discussed in 2000, when the pharmacy moved into new quarters at Broadway and South. But assuming the store's lease, which expires in 2007, would exceed the branch project's budget. The buildings and grounds committee of the library trustees board decided to approach Rite Aid again because the drug chain's competitor, CVS, pulled out of the Toledo market.

“The buildings and grounds committee said, `Let's go back and revisit it,” Mr. Kozak said.

The Harrisburg, Pa.-based chain has no potential sublessees for the location, Sarah Datz, a company spokeswoman, said. “Obviously, we're open to any inquiry,” she said.

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