PPLD buys former Briargate MCI building

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The Pikes Peak Library District paid cash for a former MCI building on the north end of town Tuesday with plans to move its Briargate branch and administration offices.

The library district paid $3.75 million for the 112,883-square foot building at 1175 Chapel Hills Drive. That’s about $33 per square foot, said library CFO Mike Varnet.

“We couldn’t construct a new library for less than $250 per square foot,” Varnet said.

Craig Anderson with NAI Highland represented the library and Mike Palmer with Grubb & Ellis represented the seller.

Varnet said the library district has 90 days to conduct due diligence research and will be able to reject the sale if it turns out there are any major problems with the building.

The district wasn’t actively looking for property, but Varnet was getting alerts from Realtors when good opportunities appeared. One appealed to him about five months ago and the board of directors decided to look at other buildings as well. The MCI facility was one of three buildings the district considered.

“This was just a deal we couldn’t pass up,” Varnet said.

The initial asking price for the facility was $10 million. And the square footage of the building is about half of the entire district’s combined square footage now.

Varnet said many of the library’s facilities are cramped.

The current Briargate branch is in an approximately 8,500-square foot rented building near Chapel Hills Drive and Briargate Boulevard.

“It was too small for us the day we moved in,” Varnet said.

With the purchase of the new building the square footage per person in the district is about 0.7 square feet, Varnet said. That gets the district closer to where it would like to be – 1 square foot per potential patron.

“We were able to increase our current square footage without going outside of our budget,” Varnet said.

The district is using its saved fund balance to purchase the new building and will not need to go to voters for any financing and will not be borrowing any money to pay for the new building.

“We knew that was really important to the community,” Varnet said.

While the expansion will certainly be a physical one, most of the staffing at the new branch will come from existing facilities, though the district may hire a few extra people.

Varnet said the district administration will not know what the staffing needs will be until the move gets closer. He doesn’t expect it to happen until the end of 2012.