UnBound

Meridian Library District’s tech branch, unBound, closed its downtown space on Feb. 16. Library staff announced Wednesday they would be moving the branch into the former AEI Systems Group building in downtown Meridian on Northeast Second Street, off East Idaho Avenue.

The Meridian Library District has found a new location for its technology-focused branch, unBound.

Library staff announced Wednesday they had purchased the former AEI Systems Group building in downtown Meridian on Northeast Second Street, off East Idaho Avenue. The district paid $415,000 for the 3,800-square-foot, two-story building. The funds came from the library’s annual budget of $5.6 million. District Director Gretchen Caserotti said the library was able to defer a couple of nonessential projects to pay for the building.

UnBound closed its downtown Meridian space on North Main Street and West Broadway Avenue on Feb. 16 after operating there for more than three years.

The building housing the library was transferred from the city’s urban renewal district, the Meridian Development Corporation, to local businessman Joshua Evarts. It will be demolished, with some nearby buildings, to make way for two four-story buildings, with retail and commercial space and over 100 apartment units.

Evarts and his business partner, Pacific Companies, plan to break ground on the project May 13.

Since its downtown space closed, unBound has been operating “unBound Light” at the library district’s Cherry Lane branch. While the setup is not ideal, Caserotti said it is giving new library patrons the opportunity to discover the space, geared toward technology.

Library staff have not finalized a timeline for unBound’s reopening. Before that, the building needs to be renovated, making it ADA compliant.

In addition to this project, the library district is seeking approval of a $14 million, 10-year facility levy on the May 21. If the levy passes, part of the funding would be used for unBound renovations, including a possible expansion.

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Nick Grove, tech library supervisor, said he’s excited to start a new chapter for unBound.

“It is going to allow us to grow into a space that we own, and we will be able to refocus on what services we provide and change with the needs of the community,” he said.

Grove said the new location won’t be an exact match to the former, “but it will be a unique layout to meet the opportunities the building currently has.”

THE BUILDING

The AEI Systems building has been a part of the Meridian downtown community since 1950s, according to Ken Thomson, former owner and president of AEI Systems.

Ken Thomson’s father, William Thomson, and his grandfather, George Garn, finished construction on the building in 1949. Shortly after they opened Thomson Television and Small Appliance Repair Services, which operated until 1972. In 1982, Ken and William Thomson opened Audio Electronic Inc, which Ken changed to AEI Systems Group in the 1990s. The business specialized in electronic systems, like intercoms, fire alarms and nurse call systems. Thomson sold the business to Delta Fire Systems in 2017.

Ken Thomson said four generations of his family had grown up in the building. He was excited that it was going to the library district because it would create an opportunity for children and adults to “come and learn.”

“It was just exactly what we were looking for,” he said.

Patty Bowen is the Meridian Press reporter. You can reach her at pbowen@idahopress.com or follow her on Twitter @pattybowenMP.

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