Chamber plans to move Visitor Information Center
Winthrop has found a new use for its old library building: the Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Information Center plans to move into the space.
The town-owned building on Highway 20 across from the ball field has been empty since last May, when it was closed and replaced by the new library on White Avenue. The town has been considering possible uses for the building since then.
The Winthrop Chamber of Commerce made the request to move into the space at last week’s Town Council meeting. In a letter to the council, the chamber suggested several potential benefits: parking relief for the downtown area; additional restrooms for visitors; and another Wi-Fi hot spot.
“The old library location would be an ideal location for the hub of recreation within the town” as a natural stopping point for visitors, the letter said.
The current Visitor Information Center, in the small red building next to Town Hall at the four-way stop, will continue to offer tourism-related materials but will not regularly be staffed, chamber President Josh Buehler told the council.
That existing information center is popular but very small, and can accommodate only a few people at a time whereas the former library building is much larger and can handle more visitors. The chamber said the existing Visitor Information Center could be staffed as needed at busy times to redirect visitors to the new facility.
Buehler said the former library building could also provide an office space for its soon-to-be-named executive director. The chamber has not had such a position in the past. Chamber board meetings could also be held in the building, he said.
Buehler asked that the council approve the move and provide additional funding as needed for the transition. The Visitor Information Center is supported by the town’s lodging tax funds, administered by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.
Under terms of the agreement which deeded the property to the town many years ago, the building that formerly housed the library is to be used for recreational purposes. Town Clerk Michelle Gaines said the family that donated the property supports the use of the building as a Visitor Information Center.
The Winthrop library — part of the NCW Libraries system — moved into the building on Highway 2007, in what was meant to be a temporary relocation. Fifteen years later, a new library opened and greatly expanded local services. The building also has community meeting space.
In a sense, the old library building will be coming full circle: It was built as an interpretive center, and for a time the U.S. Forest Service operated it a visitor center.
Mayor Sally Ranzau said she would like to see the new Visitor Information Center have regular, posted hours of operation. Currently the downtown center is open seasonally or during times when heavy tourism traffic is expected. Ranzau also said she would like more information about how utility payments will be handle.
Council members were supportive and agreed to have a new contract with the chamber drawn up for their consideration.
In other business, the council approved a request by Winthrop Kiwanis to waive usage fees for the Winthrop Barn for a fundraising pancake breakfast on March 4. The event, which would coincide with the annual Winthrop Balloon Roundup, is intended to raise money to assist Jamie’s Place with the purchase of a handicapped-accessible van, Kiwanis President Karen Busse said in a letter to the council. All funds raised by the breakfast will go directly to Jamie’s Place, Busse said in the letter.