Plans for new 7th Ward public library win planners’ approval _lowres

Photo provided by New Orleans Public Library -- Pictured is a rendering of of the New Orleans Public Library 7th Ward Branch.

New Orleans’ last storm-damaged public library branch moved a step closer to reopening Tuesday.

The City Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend granting a conditional-use permit for a new 7,960-square-foot facility at 1902 St. Bernard Ave. in the 7th Ward.

City Council approval is expected as well.

The old library, known as the Nora Navra branch, flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has remained closed since then.

The replacement building is expected to cost about $3 million. It will include adult, teen and children’s sections, a technology center and a meeting room that will be available for community gatherings.

Construction is expected to start in October, with the library reopening in early 2018, the city’s tricentennial year.

Six of the New Orleans Public Library’s 13 locations were destroyed by Katrina, with others damaged. All but one of those facilities are now open, and two new ones have been added, for a total of 14 active branches.

“We’re very excited about this (new Nora Navra) facility,” Library Executive Director Charles Brown said Tuesday. “It’s been long awaited and long anticipated by this community.”

Last year, New Orleans voters approved a 25-year, 2.5-mill tax that was projected to raise $8.25 million a year for the cash-strapped public library system.

That money was viewed as key toward extending hours and days of operation at all of the city’s library branches and for reopening the Nora Navra branch.

The new tax was in addition to the 3.14 mills already dedicated to the library. That tax, which runs through 2021, provides about $9.5 million to the library system each year, nearly $3 million short of what the system needed to operate at its current levels.

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.