D.C. Library board considering to consider ideas for Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library


Case Stiglbauer, 22, does research at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in the District. (Jahi Chikwendiu/WASHINGTON POST)

The building, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is a historical landmark but has been expensive and troublesome to maintain. The library’s management, led by D.C. Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper, has been considering whether it can be renovated or expanded in some way, or if the library needs to find a new home for the central library.

A panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute, a non-profit research group, studied the King library and issued some recommendations in March. Cooper hired architects from the Freelon Group to study design proposals for renovating the building and D.C. developer Jair Lynch to consider the best ways to take advantage of the G Street property’s value.

Cooper said the library has essentially three options: continue to maintain the existing building, despite expensive structural shortcomings; sell it and relocate to a new central library location; or keep the building and add two floors of office space that can be leased to create new revenue.

Cooper said in an interview that there were few sites available downtown for a new library to be built and that the only one she had considered was on Pennsylvania Avenue, where the Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently headquartered but expected to move in coming years.

After seeing designs from the Freelon Group, she said could finally imaging choosing to stay in the King building, despite its difficulties.

“So many of us who care about Mies design and care about architecture want this building to remain as a library,” she said. “And this would allow that.”

The board could decide to take action on a plan tonight, but could also wait until after D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) also plans to hold a hearing Sept. 27 on the future of the building.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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