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.
4 responses to “DC Public Library Updates Community on Renovation of Southeast Library”
The Library top staff, including Director Reyes-Gavilan, as well as all the designers of the SE Library renovation, who showed us illustrations of all 3 floors of the new plans — told us the new plans are “thrilling, brilliantly conceived and beautiful” (their words).
First, I still wonder why they stated so positively, with no proof, why they absolutely must “cut through the berm” to create the ugly new entrance on S.Carolina Ave SE. against the logic of putting the entrance on D St. SE closer to subway, bus and many more pedestrians. D Street makes much more sense. Why was no explanation offered, still???
As for their glowing adjectives about the building’s decor and lighting — I for one found the children’s floor embarrassingly ugly. Huge brown seeds floating in the air hardly suggest beauty or growing things. Chaotic-looking groupings of furniture did not suggest silence or peace, but someone’s idea of “fun”. Must today’s children always sit on minuscule foam stools?
Of course I cherish the old burnished wooden shelves of my own childhood local library filled with exciting books . This SE library does have the odd bookshelf — but it is build for children who tap cell phones, and romp around. That’s not the way I look at today’s children, or at what is fun.
There are a lot of spring flowering bulbs in the south-facing garden planted courtesy of Gingko Gardens. They suggested I dig them up before heavy construction equipment destroyed the garden for things like the new entrance. Last spring I marked many of them with stakes and labels so I could dig them up and offer them to the public. – but the stakes I used to mark locations were destroyed during the summer. Guaranteed this is not something the DC government would give a rat’s ass about. Would be nice if someone like a friends of the library group would step up to support this. It’s a minor thing, but is one of the little things that _used_ to make Capital Hill a neighborly place to live.
I was not able to attend the live meeting but I took a look at the presentation online. As a nearby resident of D Street, I have two questions I would have asked the design team:
-Where would waste receptacles be stored and how would they be emptied, would this be on the D Street side?
-I note a lot of provisions for noise control associated with mechanical equipment on the D Street side. Will the library be able to maintain these safeguards over the years?
In general I think the design has progressed well, and will be respectful to the historic building. Balancing the growing needs of the library with the expectations of the neighbors, on such a small hemmed in site, is no easy task.
Current library has inadequate bike parking. Hope this is addressed in new design. Aside from meeting existing demand, more bike capacity also addresses neighbors’ concern about increased vehicular traffic. Eastern Market contributes far more than library to vehicular traffic in area and that won’t change. (Ed. Note. Plan anticipates additional bike racks on South Carolina Avenue.)