L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library project

This rendering from MSR Design shows the renovated exterior of L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library and a third story added to the building.

EAU CLAIRE — Introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, a drive-up at Eau Claire’s public library will become a permanent feature as part of an $18.5 million building renovation and expansion project.

Started last spring while L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library was closed, the drive-up located in a lower parking level accessible off Dewey Street would remain and get some upgrades through the planned project.

“The library was very interested in having a drive-thru,” Angi Goodwin, an engineer with Ayres Associates, said during Monday night’s Plan Commission meeting.

Lower level parking will be reconfigured with a one-way vehicle lane so patrons can drive up to separate windows for picking up and dropping off materials. As a result, the 23 parking stalls on that level will be reduced to 17 spots.

Scheduled to start this spring, the library project will be a full renovation of the existing 62,000-square-foot building and add 6,800 square feet to it.

That expansion will create a third floor with a large community gathering room and an innovation lab. Renovations will replace building’s aging systems, bring it into full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and expand youth programming space.

During Monday’s meeting, the Plan Commission voted 9-0 to recommend the library’s site plan to the City Council, which will consider it next week.

Another city panel, the Waterways and Parks Commission, gave its blessing to the plans on Jan. 21, according to minutes from that meeting.

The site plan shows how Eau Claire Street alongside the library would be replaced with a public plaza. An even larger plaza is planned between City Hall and the library for future years, but a U.S. Bank drive-thru currently remains between the two public buildings.

Designs for the library’s plaza do take into account the expanded plaza the city has in mind for the future.

“A lot of the layout you’re seeing here takes into account the stage two improvements,” said Chris Silewski, a landscape architect with Ayres Associates.

City Councilman Jeremy Gragert, who serves on the Plan Commission, discussed the site plan’s placement of bicycle parking how the plaza leads to the entrance.

“I do appreciate the pedestrian focus right in the front of the building,” he said during Monday night’s meeting.

Other business

Also during Monday night’s Plan Commission meeting:

• JCap Real Estate received a permit to add a rooftop tavern to the former office building at 204 E. Grand Ave. that the company is in the process of turning into apartments and commercial space.

• The commission approved Cambridge Senior Living’s site plan to build a 62-apartment facility on land along Old Town Hall Road, next to the Fleet Farm gas station.

• An 8-0 vote — commissioner Gregory Granlund abstained — approved UW-Eau Claire’s plans to repave a faculty parking lot next to Hibbard Hall, alongside Garfield Avenue.

Contact: 715-833-9204, andrew.dowd@ecpc.com, @ADowd_LT on Twitter