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Party-goers bid farewell to Corona del Mar library before it’s demolished and rebuilt

The Corona del Mar branch library made some of its final memories this week.

The venerable but aging building at Marigold Avenue and East Coast Highway is closing Saturday and will be demolished in coming weeks for the city of Newport Beach to build a new combination library and fire station.

So the library held a farewell party Wednesday, with sheet cakes cleverly decorated with tiny book covers with “goodbye” or some variation in the titles. A scrapbook made for the building’s 50th anniversary in 2009 sat open by the reference desk, jammed with handwritten testimonials and remembrances. Blank booklets sat on another table to encourage visitors to jot down more.

“Dear CdM library — you are a ‘grand dame’ of NB — much loved!!” read a message from Robyn Grant, a former member of the Newport Beach board of library trustees. “We will miss you but look forward to your ‘offspring’ — a new library for future generations.”

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Peggy Darnell, a longtime Newport resident, snapped photos as she milled around the party. She said it’s easy to be comfortable in such a homey place.

“We can come here without knowing a lot of people, but we’re all happy here,” said Darnell, who took her children there in the 1970s.

Amy Hunt, president of the Friends of the Library board, said the library is special for its focus on children’s programming, noting that the youth area takes up about half the building.

“I think it’s that nice little community feeling,” she said.

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The City Council approved contracts last month for the $8.8-million “fibrary” project after an anticipated influx of developer fees reignited the project, which had been put on hold last year because of budget concerns.

Groundbreaking is planned for April 10, with the grand opening expected in summer 2019. Design features of the new 10,314-square-foot building include an outdoor reading porch and stroller parking.

The current Corona del Mar library and fire station were built separately but adjacent about 60 years ago. The fire station’s crew now operates in a single-wide trailer onsite because the building doesn’t meet current code. The city made a few fixes to the library last year, such as termite eradication on the front deck and new air conditioners, to keep the building going a little longer.

The council first approved a conceptual design for the fibrary complex in 2015 and had planned to demolish and rebuild the existing facilities in 2017. But city leaders said early last year that with unfunded pension liabilities straining the city budget, the project could be postponed for five years.

City officials pushed up the construction timeline after deciding to add $9 million a year to pension liability payments.

Though the current CdM library will have its last regular hours Saturday, it will host one more event, a closeout book sale, on March 24 and 25. Several items have been set aside for other branches, but most of the books remaining on the shelves will be up for grabs at near-giveaway prices, Hunt said.

hillary.davis@latimes.com

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD

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