HAYWARD -- After weighing three designs for a grandiose new downtown library, officials gave the nod to a "Heart of the City" concept, a glass-and-steel structure encased within an art deco shell.

The building -- officially called the Library and Community Learning Center to stress its multiple uses -- is still in its planning stages. It would be well over twice the size of the current library and three stories tall, with more space dedicated to community meeting rooms and computer stations.

The total cost comes to more than $50 million, and funding sources are far from secured.

Energy company Calpine agreed to donate $10 million toward the library if it builds a power plant near the Hayward shoreline. That project has been tied up by a lawsuit, although a decision is expected at any time.

In addition, the city has set aside about $1 million for design and land acquisition. The rest has yet to be determined.

"The funding is daunting, but we have some ideas," Councilwoman Barbara Halliday said, adding that there may be state or federal grants available based on environmental design or educational purpose.

Such grants and others were some of the possibilities mentioned in a city staff report, as well as the possibility of a bond.

Councilman Marvin Peixoto said the price tag has gone up considerably since the library idea started to jell, Calpine's expected contribution has gone down, and the lack of a financing plan is troubling.

"I don't see anything solid," he said. "It's banking on floating a bond measure that we're not sure the public will get behind."

But City Manager Fran David said it is prudent to move ahead with planning, even if funding sources have not been identified.

"Yes it's a challenge," she said. "You can say, 'What is the point of designing it if we don't have funding?' But you can also say, 'What is the point of seeking funds when we don't have a design?'"

A majority of the City Council and library commission members at Tuesday night's joint meeting agreed that "Heart of the City" design best fit what's already in the area, such as the old City Hall building across the street, the new City Hall building a few blocks away and the neighboring historic post office.

But it wasn't unanimous. Councilman Mark Salinas urged they not pick a design that fits in, but instead select something that will stand out.

"We have one shot to build the best, greatest, most signature building in the city, a library," he said. "It should look very distinct, unlike any other building in the city. We are an education city, and what better way to symbolize that than with our library?"

The structure would be at C Street and Mission Boulevard, across from the current library, next to the historic Bradford Station Post Office. To get the largest footprint, plans include buying an adjacent parking strip and narrowing C Street.

The current library would be razed and the block turned into a big park. Architects envisioned it having some kind of meadow feature in the middle, with a fountain, stage or other "focal point" that would encourage people to gather there.

The staff report states that the current library, built in 1950, is an outdated building nearing the end of its useful life and woefully inadequate for the needs of the community. Shelving is at capacity, and the collection cannot grow to meet community needs such as Spanish-language items. Computer stations are at the maximum that can be handled by outdated wiring. There aren't enough meeting rooms, and there is stiff competition to reserve space. The 25 seats in the children's center could be doubled and still not meet demand.

"Once in a lifetime, a community has the opportunity to build a library," said Library Director Sean Reinhart. "I submit that the time is now."

Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Contact him at 510-293-2473. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi. Read our blog at www.ibabuzz.com/hayword.