Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tenley-Friendship Library to Open Monday

The Tenley-Friendship Library at 4450 Wisconsin Ave. will open on Monday, January 24.

It's been through three mayoral administrations, three development teams, countless community discussions, but at last it's done. The new Tenleytown library opens Monday, five years after discussions began about replacing the outdated library on Wisconsin Avenue.

According to D.C. Public Library's Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper, the space was designed to accommodate the changing role of the city's libraries. During Mayor Anthony Williams' administration, and through Mayor Adrian Fenty's tenure, a re-distribution of funds has translated to beefier collections, more targeted programming, and updated technology. Over the past five years, she says, community library attendance has doubled.

Tenley-Friendship Library will house 80,000 books, DVD's and CD's, 32 Macs and wi-fi, says Cooper. The new space also features quiet study rooms, conference rooms, a meeting room that seats 100, and a children's programming area.

The library showcases several design features that are somewhat unique. For example, the building committee hired a consultant to monitor light and heat in the adult section to maintain comfortable temperature and light, particularly during late afternoon sun. The building also features a green roof that houses as an environment-friendly waste water management system.

Thirteen of the city's 24 libraries will have been rebuilt or renovated in two years. Three more will open this fall, including the renovated Mount Pleasant Branch, a new space in Washington Highland, and the Francis A. Gregory branch in Southeast. The renovated Petworth branch is slated for a spring opening.

The entrance to the library showcases books on the left, with spines facing both directions. Many of the books on these shelves will feature new releases as well as titles that may entice readers, says Cooper.

The ground floor showcases a walkway that will accommodate crowds as well as stroller pile-ups during children's programming, which Cooper notes, is an issue at the Shaw branch.

The children's section features books shelves at eye-level for kids.

The second floor walkway allows for plenty of natural light, yet features design that ensures it is neither too bright nor too warm.

The teen section of the library marked by bright orange chairs offers computers specifically for middle and high schoolers.

The second story offers quiet rooms which Cooper says are often co-opted by bloggers.

The meeting room accommodates up to 100 people, says Cooper. Anyone from the community can reserve the space, provided the meeting is open to the public.

The Tenley-Friendship branch juxtaposes wide open spaces and reading nooks.

Teardrop lights punctuate the lobby, which is framed by a dramatic staircase.

Roadside Development first proposed a new library in 2005, at a time when Mayor Williams cut funding for several libraries, including Tenleytown's. Roadside instead proposed building an apartment complex adjacent to the library, a cash-generating operation that would entice it to pay for a new library and renovation for the hard worn Janney school next door (now under renovation at city expense). Small but concerted local opposition derailed the project - and Roadside - but a skittish city warmed to the idea and solicited bids for the same project, then changed the bid requirements to move prospective residences off the library, eventually awarding LCOR the same project. The Council demurred and forced a redrawing of plans, and by February of 2009 LCOR's romance with the city ended, leaving the city to build the library and rebuild Janney as a salve to frazzled nerves; construction began in September 2009.


Anonymous said...

Well, you totally botched the history of the project, but thanks for the great pictures!

It'll be great to (finally) have our library back -- and what an improvement over the old building. Kudos to Ginnie Cooper and her team -- they did an admirable job under difficult circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that that the city spent about $1 million in taxpayer funds to add structural supports to the library to allow for future construction of a nine story residential tower on top of the library and on the adjacent Janney soccer field. Is this true? If so, what are the details and why are we not hearing more about this?

Anonymous said...

You're not hearing more about it from the city because it's basically a bridge to nowhere. No developer has expressed interest in the project and there will be fierce community opposition if it's pursued again in the foreseeable future.

Imagine closing down the new library shortly after it reopens and turning Janney back into a construction site just as the dust clears from the modernization/expansion project now underway. Not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Then why spend $1 million? Where did this money come from?

Anonymous said...

If a residential tower were built over the library and on Janney's soccer field, how would access work? Would vehicles enter via Saint Ann's Church?

Anonymous said...

Why spend $1 million? So Fenty and Cheh could preserve their smart growth street cred. It was an election year. Besides, it's OPM so it doesn't really count, right?

Where did it come from? Technically, it came to DCPL from the Office of Planning and Economic Development. Where did OPED get it? From the fire department equipment budget, if I remember correctly. You can do stuff like that when the former Deputy Mayor who championed the project has since become City Administrator and when you keep the transfer just under $1 million to avoid Council oversight.

Anonymous said...

There are no windows on the side of the library facing the Janney soccer field (the portion of the library that looks like a bunker) to facilitate the construction of a residential tower over that portion of the library and on Janney's soccer field.

So, not only has DC wasted $1 million for additional structural supports, but it's greatly reduced the amount of natural sunlight for this portion of the library. Also, the Janney community has a solid wall to look at.

Anonymous said...

At this point, I think that what's important is that the Gray administration doesn't compound the mistakes Fenty made.

It's time to reintegrate the soccer field back into Janney's campus rather than invest another $1 million in astroturf to relocate it to another part of campus where it will be smaller and less useful both to the school and the community.

Anonymous said...

The people who own single family homes adjacent to Janney are understandably upset with the prospect of moving the soccer field from its spot next to the library to a place along their property line (behind the school). The Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization has said soccer leagues would be allowed to use the field on weekend mornings. Imagine trying to sleep during soccer matches.

Anonymous said...

Wait, a field in the rear of the property would be full size, or certainly closer to it than the space between the school building and the library.

Are we really resorted to complaining about this?

Anonymous said...

I think you may be forgetting about the addition, which will consume much of that land.

The proposed astroturf soccer field is smaller and less versatile than the old field, which was used not only for soccer but for PE and other activities and which got a lot of community use during the summers and weekends. That was never a problem because the field bordered the street on one side and the school/library on the others.

It just doesn't make sense to spend a million dollars on astroturf to relocate the field to a place where it's less usable and to create a conflict of interest where one never existed before. The only reason that choice was made was that Fenty told Lew to plan the campus as if the old soccer field didn't exist. The logic behind that approach has been abandoned, which means it's just a waste of money to relocate the field to a place where it has to be astroturfed.

On the bright side, it's a decision that's reversible at no cost at this point.

Anonymous said...

I say, move the Janney soccer field as far away as possible from the future Tenley Tower. The early morning sounds of little kids are not the sort of vibrancy and buzz that we smart growth urbanists especially want as we remake Upper Northest along the model of U Street and Clarendon. I don't mind the late night sounds of revelers from sidewalk cafes and wine bars, but please, no early morning noise from the soccer junior league.

Anonymous said...

why do DC tax payers pay for stuff like this (the field) and "soccer leagues" who are 99.99% non dc residents come and play. I say, just tell them to go use some fields in Maryland or Virginia.

Anonymous said...

The soccer field primarily serves the school and, from what I've seen, the non-school users have been local or city-sponsored (e.g. summer youth program) groups. It's not a spiffy enough field (no bleachers, restrooms) to be much of a draw beyond that. But it's really convenient for kids in the neighborhood who shouldn't have to be driven to MD or VA fields for practice.

Anonymous said...

I can certainly emphasize with long term residential neighbors who do not want to have the soccer field moved to a location on the school grounds that abuts their properties. The noise will not be pleasant. The field should remain in the space next to the library. That is what the original Janney modernization drawings depicted.

Anonymous said...

The people doing the posting here must not send their kids to Janney. If they did, they would know that the old soccer field could probably qualify as a federally-protected wetland. Frankly, I'm surprised that some of the anti-development types didn't think of trying to get it protected as a wetland. Anyway, if we keep the soccer field where it has historically been, we HAVE to spend the money to astroturf it unless we want to go back to playing soccer in a swamp.

Anonymous said...

I've heard this. I've heard that. You act like you are breaking open the watergate scandal with these cryptic accounts of the added structural supports. That was in the Washington Examiner almost 2 years ago. It is clear that people are divided about more development but at least be honest about your position.

Anonymous said...

Bring on the plastic grass! God forbid that an elementary school-aged kid should ever encounter mud or dirt while playing soccer. It's a shame that they even have to go outdoors just to play. Don't you realize that there's weather out there?

Anonymous said...

Don't build the residential tower on Janney's soccer field.

Don't move the soccer field to abut the single family houses on Janney's south border.

Fix and maintain the soccer field that abuts the Tenley-Friendship Library so drainage and other issues are fully addressed.

Continue Janney's modernization with underground parking for teachers and staff.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good to me!

Anonymous said...

To 1/21 at 10:22, how do you suppose the city should pay for underground parking?

The original plan was to have a private developer pay for it by pooling the underground parking for the school, library and residences. This would have opened up space for a regulation soccer field.

Now you are suggesting that the inadequate soccer field be retained. But even with that, there is still surface parking for faculty and staff and diminished play space for the children.

It is really a shame that under the banner of being environmentally sensitive and "thinking of the kids" the vocal opponents in that neighborhood have forced a lesser solution that didn't optimize the various needs sufficiently.

Anonymous said...

Three developers presented proposals for the site. Each planned to charge DC govt market rate for underground parking spaces. And each showed a soccer field smaller than the pre-existing one.

Both the school and the library emerged with better facilities than they would have had (and were rebuilt more quickly than they would have been) had there been a public-private venture on the site.

Anonymous said...

Janney Elementary School's enrollment is set to increase to 550 children, a significant increase of its enrollment over the past fifteen years or so. The school is already overcrowded. Squandering its very limited outdoor space for a 122 unit, nine story, 90 foot residential tower is absurd. The school requires more open space, not less.

Anonymous said...

And what requires more use of precious space? The "tower" or the surface parking?

I would submit that building a residential structure that buries the parking will net more space for the children.

Anonymous said...

The Janney modernization proposal was to provide underground parking for the school's teachers and staff. This was not contingent on building the residential tower above the library and on Janney's adjacent soccer field.

So, if the residential tower is built as the Deputy Mayor's Office envisioned it, Janney will have less green or open space than if the tower is not built. This is pretty simple math.

Anonymous said...

Not if the parking for the building (aka NIMBY tower) and faculty is consolidated under the building and the new field.

It i simple math really, those opposed are either too stubborn or obtuse to acknowledge it.

Anonymous said...

The last post (January 24th at 6:59 pm) doesn't make sense.

If parking for a 90 foot tall, 122 unit residential tower is combined with parking for Janney's teachers and staff, I agree that this, by itself, has no impact on the amount of green or open space above the soccer field. However, what the poster fails to take into account is that the residential tower itself will sit on top of Janney's soccer field, thereby reducing the size of Janney's green or open space.

Calling others names (e.g., NIMBYs) will not change this.

Anonymous said...

To the previous commenter...if the current surface parking is freed up to become part of a new, bigger soccer field, then yes, there is more net play space.

Neither the height nor the number of units make your case. You have to look at the footprint, which presumably would be on the existing soccer field. Compare the size of the existing soccer field to the surface parking area.

Any satellite image and three seconds of viewing the site will demonstrate this.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 7:06 pm:

As was stated earlier (1:42 pm), the Janney modernization plan calls for the parking for Janney teachers and staff to be underground.

If a 122-unit, 90-foot tall apartment building were built largely on the Janney land, it would not be underground. The apartment building would remove much of the existing soccer field from the land available to the school.

Satellite images of previous campus and parking configurations are not useful for comparing the recreation space available on the modernized Janney campus without an large apartment building to the recreation space that would be available on the modernized Janney campus if we devote a large amount of Janney’s recreation space to a large apartment building plus the access roads necessary to reach its dedicated three-level underground garage.

Anonymous said...

Not true. The more logical configuration of garage access from the public alley behind the Church yields the most beneficial solution.

You can keep arguing about it but the benefit of additional greenspace for the children is self-evident.

Anonymous said...

Only if you conveniently forget that there'd be an 122 unit apartment building on top of an even bigger swath of the campus's greenspace.... And that's before we get to the space lost ot landscaping, buffers, and access routes.

Seriously, everybody loved this theory, but we saw at least 5 different mixed-use site plans and all of them lead to a net loss of exterior space for the school's playgrounds, sports fields, sports courts, etc. In practice, a residential building costs the school more land than an underground garage saves it.

And, of course, you can build an underground garage without adding a residential building. DCPS has done it elsewhere in recent modernizations and has pledged to do it at Janney.

Anonymous said...

The footprint of the building on the undersized "soccer field" is far less than the captured play space that would be under both a new building and new soccer field/play space.

In these economic times, the city will not be spending the $5-10 Million needed to do this. Thus, I suppose the community will be left with the mud bog undersized green space and surface parking for faculty.

Anonymous said...

The library is getting panned on the local neighborhood Yahoo group, ostensibly because it is a cold, hard place with little warmth and poor choice of building and finish materials.

Perhaps if the community had spent more time thinking about the details of the plans, rather than fighting about a few units of residences on top of the building, there might have been a better result.

Why, oh why, did the architect design the main entrance on the side of the building rather than at the corner of Albemarle and Wisconsin? This completely wasted an opportunity to create a logical neighborhood focal point.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the library would be better if its design hadn't been compromised by the whole PPP process. We ended up with 1/3 of the space turned into the Adrian Fenty-Mary Cheh memorial bunker. The result is a noticeable loss of light and spaciousness, as well as some pretty sterile public spaces in that wing.

But it's wrong to claim that arguments over "a few units" of housing (interesting characterization of a 90 foot 120+ unit building that would have consumed a big chunk of the elementary school's campus, BTW) distracted the community from design details. Tenley-Friendship got the same community input into the design process as the other 3 branches closed at the same time. And the third design meeting was focussed on finishes.

Re playspace/parking tradeoffs. It's a problem that residential development on the site would have exacerbated rather than solved. And CM Cheh seems confident she'll find the (previously and repeatedly promised) funding for the underground parking. I think she's highly motivated to do so and since Gray also pledged to fund

Anonymous said...

that part of the project during the primaries, I don't see him getting in her way on this issue.

IMGoph on Feb 5, 2011, 12:13:00 PM said...

why is it that every person who complains about everything in ward 3 does so anonymously? why don't they ever use even a pseudonym? there's no way to follow the conversation here—it's one random anonymous posting after another. no way to tell who is responding to what.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the internet!

MM said...

Just went to the new library. Cold, barren, small, and an entrance that seems as unwelcoming as a Metro shelter, very, very disappointing architecture. Clearly a design firm that was more concerned with making their mark than making a comfortable spot that invites the public. What a waste of an opportunity.

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