New Marin IJ Today: Stake in the ground

Supporters of the Commons at Larkspur gather around the new sign for the proposed library and community center project on Oct. 1. (Courtesy of Nick Stone)

Marin IJ Article

“What was more embarrassing than an empty lot where a new library is supposed to be? A peeling, faded, several-years-old sign heralding the project.

The “Future Home of the Larkspur Library and Community Center” sign was erected a few years after the Doherty Drive lot was set aside by the Rose Lane housing development in 2010. It announced 2015 planning meetings and presided over the 2.5-acre site for years as a symbol of the stalled project until being quietly removed more than a year ago.

But on Oct. 1, a new sign of life appeared on the dormant lot: the city of Larkspur and the Larkspur Library and Community Center Foundation (LLCCF) erected a new sign.

“The new sign is a good start to let people know the city is back on track with the library,” says Larkspur mayor Ann Morrison, who will step down next month but feels she is leaving the city and the community center project in good hands. “Aren’t we lucky to have Joe involved?”

Indeed, since Joe Jennings restarted the project as leader of the LLCCF in 2018, the library has achieved significant progress. In September, the City Council voted unanimously to seek sources to fund $7.5 million of the $12.5 million first phase, with the balance funded by the foundation or private funds.

The city and foundation are now pursuing all sources of funding, such as bonds or partnerships with schools, government and private developers in order to keep the project on track. Larkspur has issued an architectural request for proposal and the foundation has retained experts on fundraising and capital management to operate as professionally as possible.

“My hope is that we can figure out a blended public-private deal that makes it efficient for the city so we can get this library built,” says Jennings. “I come out of (working in) Silicon Valley so I know if you’re looking for funding, you need to start the process by talking to all potential sources. That applies in government, too.”

The Commons aims to serve not only Larkspur but Corte Madera, Kentfield, Greenbrae and Ross with a library, meeting rooms and outdoor space. Redwood High School architectural students even submitted their own plans for the site. Residents can learn more and follow the project at thecommonsatlarkspur.org.

As Jennings, Morrison, and other supporters of the Commons gathered around the new “Future Home of the Larkspur Library” sign for a snapshot one afternoon, members of the Hall Middle School cross country team ran by and photobombed the gathering.

“When the kids heard why we were there, one said, ‘When’s this library going to be built? We’ve been waiting since grade school!’” says Jennings, who replied, “I get it. I’m with you.”

“We want the new sign to tell the community that the city and the foundation are working together again and we’re going to get it done.””

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