​Bookstore Project Moving Forward

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer

The future bookstore in Sewanee now has a location and planners are seeking input on what the store will entail.
In the monthly SewaneeVillage Plan update meeting at the Blue Chair on Oct. 3, University officials discussed the bookstore with about 20 community members in attendance.
The current Barnes & Noble Store near central campus will close and the new store will be in the Village between the Sewanee Post Office and Tower Community Bank’s building. Mike Gardner, the University’s vice president for facilities, planning and operations, said an architect will be hired in about two months and he estimated construction could begin in 2018 with completion in early 2019.
A number of people said they would like to see an independent bookstore similar to Parnassus Books in Nashville. Frank Gladu, special assistant to the vice chancellor and project manager for the Village development plan, said the University is leaning toward an independent bookstore.
“Barnes & Noble, who operate our current bookstore, are certainly being consulted and entertained as the operator of the new bookstore,” he said. “However, nothing lasts forever and we are hedging that it may be a more independent bookstore going forward.”
Gardner noted that he is also meeting with students, seminarians, English department officials, Sewanee Review staff and others to gain input on the new store. At the Oct. 3 community meeting, suggestions included comfortable couches and chairs, knowledgeable staff, amenities for children, extended hours and a wider selection of books, including literary prize-winners.
Gardner talked about the potential for rooms for poetry readings, debates and other events. He also mentioned the possibility of a coffee shop inside.
“We’re trying to be sensitive to business entities downtown,” he added. “It’s also important to note that we just opened up another new café in the duPont Library. If you haven’t seen it, come see it.”
Gary Sturgis, Blue Chair co-owner and catering manager said a coffee shop in the new bookstore would be detrimental to existing restaurants.
“There’s very few places to go in Sewanee,” he said. “It wouldn’t help us if you put in another eatery, a barista and all that. I understand that fits the contemporary bookstore look, but I don’t think it would help downtown businesses.”
Gardner noted that there is the possibility the store could be two stories and the property provides 100 feet of frontage on University Avenue and 200-feet of depth. He said the store will not take up that entire space.
Community member Kathleen O’Donohue, who is executive director of Folks at Home across the street from the future site, asked about parking access for the new bookstore.
Officials said there is plenty of parking planned and Gardner said initially access will be from near the Post Office to Highway 41A, with no access from Sartain Road.
As for textbooks in the new store, Gladu and Gardner said there is the potential that textbooks could be housed in a warehouse and delivered to students. Gardner also noted that the planned University Commons in the area of the current bookstore will have a campus store, where most of the University T-shirts and other memorabilia will be sold.
In other business, Gladu said there are five areas of the planning project that should see substantial progress by 2022. Those areas include the narrowing and redesign of the intersection of University Avenue and Highway 41A downtown; the bookstore; the Village Green at the site of Sewanee Market; a new, small grocery store at the site of Hair Depot; and multi-family housing units.
The focus is apartment complexes, like four unit and six unit structures, Gladu said, and not large complexes or single-family houses.
Helen Stapleton, Franklin County commissioner and Sewanee resident, said she is concerned for people who need primary housing.
“Is there anything in place to keep these apartments from becoming second homes in Sewanee?” she asked. “That’s my biggest worry, that we’re going to build all these nice little apartments and they’re going to get snapped up by second home people.”
Gladu said there will be an agreement in place with developers that the apartments only be primary residences.
One area slated for apartments is Prince Lane, which features a large and old Tulip Poplar. Gladu said after the meeting that the tree will be protected and preserved.
For more information on the Village plan, visit sewanee.edu/village/plan.