Narberth's monthslong conversation about whether and how to accommodate a traditional coffee shop among the borough's business district took a surprising turn Wednesday night as a plan emerged to add a cafe to the Narberth Community Library.
Councilwoman Heidi Boise, chair of the Property Committee, described a vision (illustrated in her own elaborate pencil sketch) of tables, chairs and umbrellas on a deck on the west side of the building, which has public wireless internet.
The borough could renovate some of the adjacent interior space, too, and sublease the whole corner to a private company.
"It's an idea we've had for a while," Boise said at the Borough Council caucus meeting, which took place across a municipal parking lot from the library.
Over the past year, dozens of residents have petitioned officials to consider relaxing per-business parking requirements downtown, in the hopes of making it easier for a coffee shop to fill one of the vacant Haverford Avenue storefronts. Unlike Boise, they had rarely, if ever, talked of a library coffee shop.
Still, petition organizer Miriam Shakow liked the general concept described to her Wednesday night.
"I think it's a great idea," Shakow told Patch via email. "I don't think it would necessarily fill the entire demand for a coffee shop in Narberth unless the space were large (big enough for at least 15 tables year-round), but it would be a terrific option."
Borough officials are in the early stages of revamping their zoning code to an undetermined extent. Boise said she did not yet know how that process will change the landscape for the pro-coffee-shop lobby, "but whether it's 'the' coffee shop or 'a' coffee shop (at the library), we want to make sure people are on board with the idea."
Council President Sam Quinn asked his colleagues Wednesday night, "Anybody not think this is a good idea?" No one responded. Narberth Business Association spokesman Ed Ridgway, the lone resident in attendance, also indicated his support of the plan.
Coffee shop or no coffee shop, the library needs renovation, including brick repointing, officials said. A tree will likely have to be removed behind the library, too, while the proposed deck would wrap around a second tree to be preserved, Borough Manager Bill Martin said at the meeting.
The borough can proceed faster on land-use plans involving its own properties, but the library coffee shop proposal remains in its early stages.
"I'm certainly optimistic it could happen sooner rather than later," Boise said.
The next discussion of it is likely not to be at Monday's regular council meeting but at the next Property Committee meeting, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 25.