Representatives of the design team tasked with renovating the historic Southeast Library told a July 23rd community meeting that the timeline will not be affected by the public health crisis. The team said the community can expect to see the first concept designs at the next community meeting, expected to be held in 5-6 weeks.
The renovated building will be bigger, said representatives from the design team, made up of architecture firm Quinn Evans and construction firm Whiting Turner. Currently, the team hopes to make the existing ground floor taller. Another floor would be added below grade, which the architects hope can be expanded horizontally in a way that will create additional space.
A small addition to the west side of the library, currently the location of a small parking lot, is under consideration. That addition would align with the front and rear of adjacent buildings so as to not block air and light. Quinn Evans Principal Chuck Wray said that the addition could allow the team to move the elevator from the historic reading room. He noted, however, that such an addition would require Board of Zoning approval.
Other above-ground expansion is likely unavailable on the site of historic preservation concerns and because of the historic important of South Carolina Avenue SE, one of the original diagonal avenues in the L’Enfant plan.
While the team has not come up with conceptual designs, they say that they intend to utilize the suitability of the current historic spaces and as they begin the process.
“The characteristics of the historic interior suggest to us ideas of where we’d consider placing child-friendly activities versus more pensive adult activities,” said Quinn Evans Principal Jeff Hoover. Hoover said that the team hoped to create a “sequence of environments” using acoustic buffering that would suit individual study, group work, noisier activities, large community meetings as well as places where someone could quietly read by a window.
Wray said that the team was working to avoid putting the new entrance near to a home at all costs. The initial ideas work to avoid interrupting the historic South Carolina Avenue viewshed, he said, and the entrance will most likely be near Seventh Street and South Carolina Avenue SE.
While the library is still years away from closure, DCPL Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan said that library resources will continue in the area when construction begins. “Services will continue in the immediate area of the library, but not necessarily like a traditional interim library,” Reyes-Gavilan said, noting the difficulty of securing real estate in the immediate area. He said that the library hopes to work with area partners to make resources such as hold pick-up available.
Spokespeople say they expect to spend the next four to 6 months seeking regulatory approval. To facilitate that process, they will begin to develop the project to about the 25 percent so that they have some idea of the scope, size and character of the project in order to get feedback before they move on to drawing and design. The team will have some discussions with DC Public Libraries before bringing design ideas to the community in 5 to 6 weeks at a community meeting that will be scheduled (likely online) for late summer.
Get more information on the Southeast Library Renovation Process, including upcoming meetings and past presentations, by visiting www.dclibrary.org/southeastlibraryrenovation