After sending the city staff back to the drawing board in June, the City Council was pleased Tuesday with the new look of the exterior architecture of the planned $29 million downtown library.
Several council members at that June meeting, while fully supporting the interior plans, critiqued the exterior renderings with such unflattering phrases as “a little sterile,” “not inviting,” “ ’70s architecture” and “faddish.”
Most of the comments were aimed at the five large and colorful square metal panels staggered across the curved south wall.
Cary Siegfried, director of libraries, defended the architecture’s kid friendliness at the time, saying the extra color “helped us achieve a little more of a welcoming and fun and whimsical look.”
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The new look combines traditional and modern with mostly masonry construction topped with extensive trellislike grillwork along the roof edge.
“It’s a much stronger look,” Siegfried said.
At the June council session, she took notes on what the council wanted to see in the new George W. Hawkes Central Library, which will keep the name of the old library. That building has been demolished and prepped for construction of a major mixed-use development in its place, next door to City Hall.
So Tuesday’s presentation and council compliments felt like a victory, Siegfried said.
“I think it was a hands-down hit,” she said. “That’s a good feeling to be able to move forward and have a central library back in business.”
The redesign is taking blame for a delayed construction timeline. Originally, the groundbreaking was set for October in the City Hall parking lot, and work was scheduled to finish in spring or summer 2017. The redesigned library is now scheduled for a February groundbreaking and an October 2017 completion.
But Mayor Jeff Williams said it will be worth the wait.
“We were willing to take the extra time to have an outside elevation that would add to our downtown and stand the test of time,” he said. “We were striving for a classic, timeless design.”
The 80,000-square-foot library aims to meet growing needs for technology and education programming while providing rooms that can accommodate any gathering, from small study groups to large community meetings, officials said.
Among the other features, based partly on suggestions in surveys of Arlington residents, are a Friends of the Arlington Public Library bookstore and cafe/vending area; digital-arts and tech-learning labs; a quiet reading area with a fireplace; a genealogy/local history room; and two “roof” gardens, which would be on third-floor balconies and could be rented for special events.
The new facility will replace the 40-year-old, 63,000-square-foot building that closed Dec. 23 to make room for the tentatively named 101 City Center, a roughly $40 million urban mixed-use development of high-end apartments, restaurants, offices, shops and other retail outlets. A representative said at Tuesday’s meeting that the project is set for an October groundbreaking.
“We do not have a housing product like that in Arlington,” Williams said, calling it a natural draw to downtown. “This will rival anything in our surrounding towns.”
A parking garage that is part of the development plans will be much needed when library construction begins and takes up parking places on the north side of City Hall.
Budget gets final OK
The Arlington City Council gave final approval Tuesday to a $221.6 million operating budget for fiscal 2016 that includes pay raises for city staff and funds to retain 23 police positions jeopardized when the city eliminated its red-light-camera program.
The budget includes no property tax rate increase but benefits from a 4.3 percent rise in the city’s taxable value, which would increase the average property tax bill by $10.96. Overall, an increase in the water rate, garbage collection fee and storm-water fee will bring the total average annual increase to about $55.24.
The operating budget, part of an overall city budget of $440.6 million, also funds pay raises for city staff and provides $1.9 million to make up for lost red-light-camera revenue. Residents voted in May to kill the program.