Cleveland Park Library – Update #1

April 12, 2014

Good news abounds for library and literary hounds: the Cleveland Park library is slated to be renovated or rebuilt! This is the cause of much celebration for some and concern by others. In an effort to help the community understand the entire process from start to finish, the Friends of the Cleveland Park Library (FCPL) held a public meeting on Saturday, March 29th, and invited two employees from the central library to explain to the neighborhood what we can expect once the project gets moving.

The meeting began with the introduction of the guest speakers by Jill Bogard, President of the Friends of the CP Library: Jeff Bonvechio, Director of Capital Projects and Facilities Management, and Jennifer Gilstrop, Director of Public Services. Also present were Archie Williams (Intergovernmental Affairs Officer) and Martha Sacoccio (Community Liaison), both from DCPL, but they did not formally address the audience. Nancy MacWood (ANC Commissioner), and Judy Hubbard (representing Mary Cheh’s office) were also in attendance. Members of the FCPL, the Cleveland Park Citizens Association (CPCA), the Cleveland Park Historical Society (CPHS), and neighbors contributed to a turnout that numbered approximately 100 people.

Jennifer Gilstrop spoke first, touching on the main things DCPL has focused on during the renovation of the branch libraries and will continue to prioritize at our branch:
1. Children and Youth
2. Books and circulation
3. Information Technology
4. Community
5. Adult collections

Ms. Gilstrop mentioned the recent changes in extending the hours of the library, and touched briefly on the number of people who visit the CP branch. The monthly visitors average at our branch is 21,046 people! Before turning the microphone over to her colleague, she discussed the possibility of the “Digital Commons” holding a session or two at the CPL branch. For more information on what the Digital Commons offers library patrons please visit: http://dclibrary.org/node/36604

Next, Jeff Bonvechio spoke about the nuts and bolts of the renovation/reconstruction of the CP branch. He has been involved with all the library building projects in DC for over 10 years. He outlined the key components that DCPL considers essential in guiding the design of the project:
1. Community input is critical
2. Community participation in architect selection
3. Community meetings to get feedback from the community
4. Focus groups and surveys from the community
5. Community outreach

The central office appears to be inviting community participation, which was a relief to most in the room. Archie Williams made the point of addressing the room by saying that he has found it better to work with the community before any project starts, rather than deal with road blocks later. Mr. Bonvechio said he would be connecting also with CPHS and ANC3C09 during the design and permitting process. He noted that there is little room to expand the library building because of property lines, and the second floor existing height is 2 feet below the maximum allowed.

At the moment, there is approximately $15M budgeted for the CP branch project. The Mayor’s Budget proposal did contain $15,670,000 for the project. As for public meetings, the Mayor has scheduled a budget town hall for Ward 3 next Thursday, April 17. It will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Alice Deal Middle School, 3815 Fort Drive NW. This number includes everything, from site survey to parking spaces (if any), to renting space for the interim library. As the process continues, choices will need to be made to stay within the budget. For example, the decision could be make to use another nearby branch as our interim library (Tenley), as opposed to renting space and incurring the costs of setting up and maintaining an interim library in Cleveland Park might be one way our branch could help maximize budgetary funds.

Money aside, the first step in this whole process is the “Design Due Diligence,” which includes the site survey. This will allow Mr. Bonvechio’s office to determine the location of hazardous materials (asbestos, lead in utility pipes, etc), and calculate how much it will cost to clean it up. The site survey will also evaluate the condition of the building, and include geotechnical borings for any structural modifications that might be necessary. Many codes and building requirements have changed since the Cleveland Park branch was opened in in 1953. All of this will help determine the “cost benefit” score, which is scaled from 0-100. If a building falls in the 20’s, demolition and new construction is recommended. Hopefully we will have this score by early fall.

Mr. Bonvechio invited questions, many of which were centered around the possibility of parking (underground parking is approximately $40,000 a slot, so it will be a cost/benefit question as the budget is considered), handicapped parking on site (one patron complained that the one handicap access parking space is on Macomb Street and thus can be used by anyone), objections to a “mixed use” building (Mr. Bonvechio’s reply to this was that there are no plans at this time for the building to be mixed use, resounding in cheers and applause from the audience), how much space the Friends will have allocated to them, and avoiding the look of the Tenley library. Lastly, someone asked about additional fundraising, and the answer is YES we can fundraise all we want to supplement any budgetary deficiencies we may detect along the way.

New construction or renovation is expected to take 15-18 months, so prepare to walk into your new library by summer 2017.

Key takeaway points:
1. It’s going to be about 3 years from now before we see the new library in a completed state
2. There are plans to have a much smaller interim library located as conveniently as possible, TBD
3. DCPL’s website will include updates on this project and invite questions and comments.
3. DCPL seems to care what the community thinks and wants; we are going to be vigilant that this remain the case

For anyone interested in reading more about the CP Library renovation, here is a link to the official DCPL page: http://dclibrary.org/node/40769#overlay-context=node/88/revisions/154381/view

Click here to view the CPCA’s full Cleveland Park Library page.