Fruitland Park residents came out en masse Friday morning to get a glimpse of the city’s new library.
The large crowd gathered outside the new $3 million facility as Mayor Chris Cheshire recalled how he and his wife, Meredith, wanted to raise their children in Fruitland Park after leaving New York. And he said having a quality library will make the city an even more desirable choice for families moving to the area.
“We’re very happy that the library is finally open and what it’s done for our community,” Cheshire said, while standing inside the 12,000-square-foot facility shortly after the ribbon-cutting event. “It’s going to be here for generations to come. Libraries really are coming into their own with technology and the services they provide.”
Cheshire said he also was quite impressed with the large crowd that turned out to welcome the opening of the new facility.
“It shows how much people love libraries,” he said.
Needless to say, Friday was as huge day for Library Director Jo-Ann Glendinning, who has been heavily involved in every intimate detail of the state-of-the-art facility since the idea was first brought up in 2012.
“I couldn’t ask for a better grand opening,” she said. “This was just fantastic. And the people that came out to this, I’m just very happy that the community is welcoming and supporting this facility.”
When asked how it feels to see the culmination of six years of hard work come to fruition, Glendinning exclaimed, “I’m going to Disney World!” with a huge smile on her face.”
Meanwhile, City Manager Gary La Venia called the library a beautiful facility and said it will be a great addition to Fruitland Park.
“I hope everybody really appreciates all the hard work, all the time, all the effort that went into this,” La Venia said. “There were naysayers out there and I hope we’ve changed everybody’s minds with this facility. It turned out to be spectacular.”
Commissioner John Mobilian recalled some questions that were raised while he was running for office – especially by Villagers living in the city – about the costs associated with the library. But he said he’s quite impressed with the way it turned out. And he thanked the large crowd that was in attendance, including Congressman Daniel Webster and several Lake County commissioners.
“They really made a big deal out of it,” said Mobilian, who represents a portion of The Villages that’s located in city. “It’s a nice day for the city and I think the library will be a good thing for Fruitland Park.”
Commissioner Patrick DeGrave, who also represents a portion of The Villages, said he had been inside the library several times while it was being constructed and was quite impressed.
“I’m even more impressed now to see it complete,” he said. “And what a great turnout. I never expected this. We packed the house.”
DeGrave said those in attendance also seem quite receptive to the new facility.
“I think it’s time for Fruitland Park to say we can have nice stuff and this is a very nice building. They did a great job with it. And I give Jo-Ann and the staff here so much credit.
Visitors to the library will notice that it pays homage to the city’s history in several ways. The foyer of the facility honors the old Casino Community Building that once stood on the site. There are framed line drawings from the late Virgil Bell, father of Commissioner Chris Bell, who also has a children’s garden named in his honor. And the windmill towering over the building once sat on the site to power the city’s water system.
Glendinning said it was extremely important that the new building paid tribute to the facilities that came before it, starting with the foyer that contains original siding from the Casino, as well as two original windows and photos of the historic facility.
“Hopefully that will make everyone who is really missing the Casino happy and they’ll see that we tried to keep a little bit of that history alive,” she said.
Cheshire called the windmill an important piece of the city’s history and said they were lucky to find it.
“The contrast of the old windmill with the new library is timeless,” he said. “It bridges the gap between the old Fruitland Park and the new Fruitland Park.”