Thursday, November 06, 2008

No Late Fees for DC's New Public Libraries

Over the course of the next year, District of Columbia Public Libraries (DCPL) will be bringing a slew of projects – including new up-to-date facilities and renovations – to neighborhoods throughout the city. Their intent? To improve conditions in low-income areas, bring the concept of the library into the 21st century and, by extension, those that they serve along with it.

First on the block is the Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library at 115 Atlantic Street SW. The present facility will be razed next year to make way for a new structure that will feature a public meeting room, study areas, a computer lab, and separate reading areas for children, teens and adults. Budgeted between $14 and $16 million, the 20,000 square foot library is expected to commence construction in the fourth quarter of 2009. International architects Adjaye Associates are designing the new facility with Wiencek and Associates serving in an associate role. In a surprising twist for a library, the city will also be aiming for a LEED silver certification. An interim library will be installed to serve the community during construction.

The Washington Highlands project has been paired up with the construction of a new Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library. In essence, the two projects could be viewed as “twins” - both projects share the same architect, budget, LEED certification and plan to go to ground in the fourth quarter of 2009. Located at 3660 Alabama Avenue SE, the library will also include the requisite meeting rooms, children's areas, administrative offices and computer labs.

And while none of the new amenities outlined above may seem vastly different from those that preceded them, DCPL’s Public Information Officer, George Williams told DCMud exactly how and why these are structures are intended to serve their specific locales:

The Washington Highlands and Francis A. Gregory neighborhood libraries were chosen to continue the Library’s efforts to improve facilities east of the Anacostia River. The condition of the existing buildings limited their ability to provide 21st Century state-of-the-art library service. For example, the need for dedicated space for things like card catalogs and computer labs is gone due to advances in technology improving the way we access information. The new buildings will have flexible space which allows for the Library to implement a variety of activities throughout the building without being limited by space dedicated for a specific purpose. As library use changes in the future, the new buildings will allow the Library to meet the needs of the community.

Williams also pledged that the local community “will play an integral role” in development of the new libraries. The architects for both projects were selected by a committee comprised of select DCPL staff, an independent architect, and community members handpicked by Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry and Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander. Additionally, the services and programs to be offered by both facilities have been outlined using feedback from a series of “Hopes and Dreams” community meetings that occurred earlier this year. Local ANC boards have also been encouraged to submit their thoughts on the matter. The architects behind the projects plan to hold public meetings regarding plans for the libraries as soon as next month.

Both the Washington Highlands and Francis A. Gregory projects are currently in the early design stages and no renderings are available at this time.

Meanwhile, Northwest is also getting two newly-updated libraries – one in Mount Pleasant, the other in Petworth.

With the first phase of renovations complete, the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library at 1600 Lamont Street NW will soon undergo significant interior renovations. Utilizing designs by the CORE Group and HMA2 Architects, the new facility will retain many of the library’s historic flourishes, while maximizing the amount of space available – for a total of 21,288 total square feet. Beyond sheer size, new improvements will include a new “common, accessible entrance for all residents,” an enhanced children’s section and updated, state-of-the-art infrastructure. The renovations are expected to be completed next year.

The Petworth Library at 4200 Kansas Avenue NW is also scheduled to receive an upgrade, beginning in January 2009. The plans on hand call for mostly superficial renovations – a facelift for the exterior, window and door restoration, roof repairs and new masonry. DCPL is currently accepting bids from contractors interested in the project, which are due no later than November 17th.

These four new additions join the previously announced Watha T. Daniel/Shaw, Anacostia, Benning and Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library (more on that coming very soon) projects, which are currently at various stages of development.

UPDATE: DCPL will be holding a "community gathering" on December 16th to showcase designs for both the Highlands and Gregory projects. Architect David Adjaye will be in attendance. A location and time are forthcoming.


Anonymous said...

Nothing is going on at the Mount Pleasant Library at the moment. Its all in the (very poor) planning stages still.

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