Here’s DC Public Library’s Thinking on SE Library Renovation – The Request for Qualifications

The site and the neighborhood of Southeast Library

Here’s DC Public Library’s Thinking on SE Library Renovation – the Request for Qualifications

by Larry Janezich

The process for renovation of DC Library has been less transparent than desirable.  Community activist Pat Taylor tracked down the Request for Proposals* (RFQ) which contains a wealth of information about the proposed project.

On April 11, DC Library issued a request for qualifications from design/build teams to determine which firms have the resources for the renovation of Southeast Library.  The deadline for responses was May 1.  It is uncertain how many responses there were, but a select number of 3 or 4 firms will be asked to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP).  The RFP is scheduled to be issued May 21, and a design/builder selected by July 2.

The following language from the RFQ reveals DCPL’s thinking about the overall plan that design/build firms have been asked to consider.  Attached to the RFQ is a feasibility study from an outside firm which analyzes several possible ways to approach the renovation, including a dissection of the Barracks Row plan created by architect Amy Weinstein.

The following language from the report reveals details about what DC Public Library is looking for in the renovation.

“Renovation Project Overview”

“The existing 9,600 gross square feet (gsf), two story concrete and brick building is located in Ward 6, at 403 7th Street, SE, Washington, DC.  DCPL seeks to replace the various electrical and mechanical systems and equipment; modernize, and improve building accessibility; enlarge the bathrooms; replace the existing elevator; increase the available floor area to accommodate a large meeting room, a smaller conference room, 3-4 study rooms, lounge-style seating areas, and a children’s computer area.  Overall, DCPL seeks to add at least 5,400 gsf to the existing library (minimum library total = 15,000 gsf).  DCPL also expects the library to attain LEED Gold v4 rating.

In the fall of 2016, DCPL engaged McKissack-Hill to undertake an overview of the library’s facility condition with particular attention to the building systems and to assess, in a general way, how the DCPL could go about increasing the building useable space to meet the community’s needs.  The final report concluded that there are many constraints that limit the options to expand the library’s footprint and offered several possibilities.

The risks identified by the McKissack-Hill report are many; constrained site availability, proximity of the Metro line , traffic congestion, neighboring homes and businesses, and regulations relating to historic preservation.  Therefore, to offset these risks, DCPL expects a more through due diligence and building program and an even more comprehensive set of design/construction documents to identify and describe various risks in order to balance the allocation of risk between DCPL and the construction contractor that will, in turn, minimize the contingencies and lower the overall price of the construction contractor.

The entire McKissack-Hill report is included as Attachment J.3.

DCPL does not view the McKissack report as the only or even the preferred solution to the issues of additional space.  On the contrary, DCPL strongly desires to stretch the domain of design and construction alternatives thinking to reach a much more welcoming and less costly library to meet its overall space requirements.  For example, during the listening and learning sessions, DCPL heard from a wide community of designers and construction contractors who believe that, as a public entity – not a developer – it may be possible to achieves some regulatory relief in terms of lot coverage, or even historic preservation requirements, that will allow for a design that meets the community’s needs without resorting to the costly and unwelcoming choice to dig under the existing building.

In view of the above, DCPL seeks a Contractor that not only has extensive urban library design experience especially designing libraries in Washington, DC historic neighborhoods and has underground construction experience in urban areas and constrained sites, but will also broaden the design and construction thinking to provide the added square footage of the Southeast Community Library in a thoughtful and sensitive way.”


Here’s a more detailed timeline on how the project will unfold:

A list of attachments to the Request for Qualifications follows:

Of particular interest is Attachment J.3, the Mikissack-Hall Feasibility Study for SE Library.  It has analyses of four possible designs – the Amy Weinstein/Barracks Row design, the excavating within the existing foot print design, a limited excavation under 7th Street design, and an attic design.  The firm recommended excavating within the existing footprint design as the least expensive and the least problematic.  The attic design was not pursued in depth owning to zoning and constructions issues.

Also of interest is Attachment J.2, which has photos of the renovations of several DC Community Libraries, including, Woodbridge, Cleveland park, Takoma Park, Georgetown, Petworth, Northeast, and Mt. Pleasant Libraries.  Mt. Pleasant, Takoma Park, and Southeast Libraries are the three Carnegie community libraries in DC.

*And here’s the link to the Request for Qualifications and the attachments:


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2 responses to “Here’s DC Public Library’s Thinking on SE Library Renovation – The Request for Qualifications

  1. Elizabeth Eby

    Thanks Pat!

  2. kandc

    A ‘must read’ for anyone interested in the Library renovation/restoration.

    Thanks for ferreting this out and presenting it all.