Sunday, January 28, 2018

Design of New Southwest Branch Library Comes Into Focus

In early January, DCPL submitted an application to the BZA in order to build a new, standalone Southwest Branch library at 900 Wesley Place. The existing library was built in 1961 and no longer serves the needs of a growing community, where thousands of new multifamily units are coming online within the next five years. After a series of public meetings, DCPL developed a plan for the library which provides separate spaces for children and adults.

On the first floor, patrons will enter the new library using an entrance on the northwest corner of the building. Upon entering the library, the north side of the building will be the Market Place. The west side of the building will contain two multipurpose rooms and the book drop. Space dedicated to Children’s Services will occupy the remaining area on the first level, as well as restrooms. Staff will enter the building from an entrance off K Street. A terrace on the northeast corner and a reading porch on the north side of the building will open towards the playground at the adjacent 3rd and I Street SW Park. The second floor will contain a series of study/meeting rooms, space for Teen/Adult Services, an adult patio, staff areas, and space for the Friends of the Southwest Library. A portion of the floor on the second level will be open to the first floor below.

Designed by Perkins + Will, the new Southwest Library takes cues from the modernist design of the neighborhood with the use of wood, metal panels, glass, and a distinctive crinkle roof. The new library will be similar in size to the existing one at 20,792 SF, but there will not be a basement due to concerns over flooding since it is below the floodplain. Parking will be provided for seven vehicles, a reduction in the number of spaces currently available at the library by two. A landscape buffer will screen the parking area from the sidewalk along 3rd Street. Green features will include, among other things, a green roof, photovoltaic panels, and bioretention areas, sufficient to secure LEED-Gold status for the building.

DCPL is seeking approval for the project and has requested three special exemptions from zoning regulations. One special exemption has to do with parking – zoning requires a government building of this size to have nine spaces, but DCPL wants to build seven surface spaces. Since the library is close to the Waterfront Metro station, two Metrobus routes, and within walking distance of most of Southwest, DCPL contends there will be sufficient parking. The second special exemption is for long-term bicycle parking – DCPL will provide one less space than required. Finally, the third special exemption is lot occupancy – it is required that up to 40% of the lot be occupied by the new building, but the design calls for 47% lot occupancy. All three special exemptions have been requested in order to maintain the current design of the new library. At its December 2017 meeting, ANC 6D voted 3-0-2 in support of the BZA application.

If approved by the BZA, demolition of the existing library will likely take place this fall, after an interim library location is found. Construction will take a little more than a year and the new library will be complete in early 2020.

Renderings courtesy of DCPL

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