WICHITA — Office This developer Max Cole isn’t giving up his dream of a progressive southeast library without a fight.
In September, Have You Heard? reported that Cole made an offer to the city to do a 60,000-square-foot library at the development in the former Wichita Mall at 4031 E. Harry. At the time, Cole said he would charge $5 a square foot and throw in an extra 20,000 square feet for storage.
This week, when Cole heard the Wichita City Council approved further study of a scaled-back central library at Second and McLean, he fired off a quick e-mail to director of libraries Cynthia Berner Harris.
“I thought the economic downturn would cause the Library Board to be more realistic about the Central Library plan,” Cole wrote. “But I was wrong!”
He called the plan a “proposed book museum with computers in the downtown area.”
“The plan is so out of touch, it’s embarrassing,” Cole wrote.
He copied the e-mail to several others, including District 3 City Council member James Clendenin.
“He doesn’t pull any punches – ever,” Clendenin says of Cole. “I was somewhat speechless at first.”
He says he’s not against Cole’s proposal.
“What is the library of the future going to look like? I think Max has a really good idea of what that could look like.”
Cole wrote that he’s proposing “a digital-age vocational library that is intended to close the achievement gap in Southeast Wichita, where it is most needed … .”
He made a video of his plan to show how it would be different than the downtown plan. That includes areas for art, social media and digital filmmaking among other things.
Berner Harris didn’t return calls for comment, but Clendenin says he views the proposals as two separate goals.
“I hope we can get Max and the library board on the same page,” he says.
“I know Max has a very big burden for the people down in southeast Wichita,” Clendenin says. “It’s gotten past being just a business thing.”
Cole says he is devoted to that area – and to getting the library done at Office This.
“I’ll have so many people walking the streets and signing petitions this summer, you won’t believe it,” he says. “Let me tell you, don’t underestimate me. I’m going after it. …
“I’m going to do it. End of story.”