Last month, a meeting was held at the Southwest library, hosted by DCPL, the Office of Planning, and DMPED to discuss the branch’s future. At the meeting, Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director of DCPL gave some statistics about the current library and its usage:
- Built in 1965
- The building is 21,600 SF on three levels (including a basement)
- 47,000 volumes
- There is 1 meeting room, 10 adult computers, 4 teen computers, and 8 computers for children
- There were 24,000 visitors from April to June of this year; SW library ranked 20 out of 26 libraries in the city (the counters were only recently installed, so there is no historic data available to see if usage has changed over the years)
|Aerial view of proposed site of new SW branch library, looking north.|
DMPED owns the northeast parcel of land at Waterfront Station next to CVS, about a block from the current library and has floated the idea of moving the SW branch library to this location. The library would be incorporated into a mixed-use building with residential units above, built by a private developer in a similar way to what is proposed for the West End branch library. Some of the reasons stated for moving the library to 4th Street’s retail corridor include (although most of these reasons are not exclusive to moving the library):
- Increased foot traffic to library and retailers
- Better accessibility for Amidon-Bowen students
- More transit accessible (closer to Metro, new Circulator stop)
- Can balance community’s desire for prominent library but still have space for retail
- Current library site is controlled by DC government, so any redevelopment there will include input from ANC6D and the community.
- A new library will be built sooner and without interruption in service to the neighborhood
- More environmentally responsible if located in a mixed-use building
|Preliminary sketch of new SW library on 4th Street.|
A conceptual plan by CORE Architects for a semi-detached library on 4th Street would be a 21,400 SF space on two levels with 8,500 SF on the ground level and 12,900 SF on the second level. The main entrance would be on 4th Street, but most of the library frontage would be facing the tree-lined pathway on the north side of the property. The conceptual plan flips the massing of the NE parcel building as it was approved in the stage one PUD so the building opens up to the north instead of opening to the south like the planned residential building across 4th Street at the Waterfront Associates-owned NW parcel.
|Preliminary sketch of redeveloped library site at 900 Wesley Pl.|
The number of meeting rooms in a new library would increase to 5 or 6 of varying size and the number of hardwired computers would double. In addition to the library, there would be 17,000 SF of retail – 10,000 SF of which would be located on 4th Street. The remaining commercial space would be located on Wesley Place. Above the retail and library would be an 11-story, 346-unit apartment building with a portion of the units set aside as affordable dwelling units. There would be 29 garage spaces reserved for the library, 87 spaces for the residential units, 14 spaces for retail, and four spaces for professional office space. On the parcel currently occupied by the library, there is a conceptual plan for a six-story residential building with 80 units and about 7,700 SF of ground floor space that could have a daycare center.
Most of the attendees at the meeting were against moving the library from its current location, although disapproval of the conceptual plan was not shared by everyone. Most of the people who had concerns with the proposal did not want the library to lose its symbol as a public place that is welcoming to all by it being incorporated into a private development. Others bemoaned the densification of the neighborhood and wanted a new, architecturally significant standalone library like most of the other new ones recently built in the city. Supporters pointed out the success of integrating libraries into mixed-use developments, such as the library in Shirlington village in Arlington and other places around the country. A decision on whether to move forward with moving the library to 4th Street will likely happen over the next couple of months, but based on the feedback from the two meetings that have been held so far (notwithstanding the results from a SWTLQTC unscientific poll earlier this year), my bet is that the library will remain on Wesley Place for the time being. We’ll see…
Renderings courtesy of DCPL