DC Public Library Updates Community of Renovation on Southeast Library
by Larry Janezich
Posted October 2, 2022
Last Thursday night, DC Public Library hosted a community meeting to update some 40 interested neighbors on the renovation of Southeast Library. The project timeline illustrated above shows where designers are in the process, with construction scheduled to begin next year and a move in date for the renovated library in the spring of 2025.
Members of the Quinn Evans design team detailed the progress since the last community meeting in 2021 which includes completion of the advanced regulatory review process, a refined design in response to regulatory comments and neighbor concerns, development of an exterior lighting analysis strategy, completion of an Environmental Noise Control study and tweaking of the design of the library’s interior spaces.
Quinn Evans asserted the new library plan will provide 25% more meeting and conference spaces, 50% more computer space, almost 50% more space for books (25,000), double the space for adult seating, and three times the space for children and families.
One design element which continued to irk nearby neighbors on South Carolina is the universal entrance on South Carolina Avenue. The current main entrance will remain, providing access to the current floor which will become the library’s third level. But a new universal entrance has been designed for access to the library on the southern facade. This entrance to the below grade level where space for children and families has been located, will provide access to upper floors by elevator and a grand staircase. Some attendees who are residents of South Carolina Avenue are opposed to the universal entrance on that street, fearing increased vehicular traffic, the amount of night time lighting, a design they call incompatible with Capitol Hill norms, and the potential attraction of a cadre of loungers who often currently frequent the area near the current main entrance on the east facade.
DCPL staff and the design team did their best to allay concerns and to assure residents that they had considered their suggestions and proposals but found the current design the only feasible one. They cited the approval expressed by city agencies and the historic preservation review process including the Historic Preservation Review Board and the Commission on Fine Arts.
Those concerned residents did not appear to be convinced and remain resentful that their suggestions and recommendations regarding an alternate design with a universal entrance on D Street were given what they consider short shrift by the design team. In response to a concern that a lack of funding might require scaling back the project after construction starts, Councilmember Charles Allen, who was present for the meeting and whose efforts provided city funding for the renovation, assured that he was 100% confident that the project would be fully funded in the coming fiscal year budgets.