CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ – The Cape May County Library Commission (CMCLC) has selected Merrell &Garaguso of Swedesboro, NJ, to rehabilitate and expand the Historic Franklin Street School in the City of Cape May as the County’s newest public library, announced Library Commission Chair William Hutchinson today.
“This is an exciting step in the Library Commission’s work to build a new, state-of-the-art library to serve the residents of the County for many years to come,” said Hutchinson. “We are looking forward to getting construction of this project underway.”
In mid-2020, the CMCLC submitted an application to the New Jersey State Library for funding to rehabilitate and repurpose the Historic Franklin Street School in Cape May – a facility built in 1927 as a segregated elementary school and now a designated New Jersey African-American Historic Site. The application, awarding the Commission $3.447 million in November of that same year, was one of just 38 approved statewide out of more than 129 submitted.
“This is certainly a shining example of what can be accomplished when professionals in various positions and organizations sit down and put their heads together for the good of their community, county and state,” noted County Commissioner Marie Hayes, who serves as the Board’s Liaison to the CMCLC. “This project has touched all of us in different ways and the end product will show the dedication and enthusiasm we all shared.”
Located immediately adjacent to the Harriet Tubman Museum, the CMCLC will create a destination library that offers the services and programming expected in a 21st Century library, while preserving the notable African-American history of the region.
As required by the grant, the state funding is being supplemented by equal local contributions from the County of Cape May, the Library Commission, and the City of Cape May – a unique, multi-level collaboration that not only highlights the exceptional nature of this project, but one which also underscores the positive community impact that results when units of government work together.
Also contributing to the cost of the project are the National Park Service’s African-American Civil Rights Historic Preservation Fundand the New Jersey Historic Trust.
“The City of Cape May is proud to support this important project,” Mayor Zachary Mullock said. “Saving this historic building while creating a new, state-of-the-art library where the community can come together to read, learn, engage and just enjoy spending time will be a tremendous asset to residents and visitors alike.”
Michael Calafati, AIA, the project’s Historic Architect, was a key player in the development of the CMCLC’s application and who created the design and specifications of the new library, expressed a similar sentiment. “The goals for this project are many and commendable. The Library Commission is taking a currently-unused community facility and turning it into a welcoming, barrier-free library so that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy a wide range of educational and recreational programming while engaging in lifelong learning. That’s a tall order, but one that will certainly be delivered.”
Also assisting in writing the CMCLC’s successful application was Triad Associates of Vineland, NJ – a community and economic development firm that has secured more than $1.4 billion in funding for its clients over its 44 years in business.
According to Calafati, construction activity on what will be the approximately 16,000 sq. ft. library is expected to begin by October 2022, with completion anticipated by December 2023.
This project is supported by funds from the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, administered by the New Jersey State Library.