Loudoun breaks ground for Gum Spring Library

Ground was broken Saturday for the Gum Spring Library, which will have two floors.
Ground was broken Saturday for the Gum Spring Library, which will have two floors. (Courtesy Of Bob Narod)
By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 12, 2009

In 1997, Karen Montgomery of South Riding began advocating for a library her three children could use. At the time, the Loudoun County branch closest to her was in Middleburg. Driving into Fairfax County took her less time, even after Ashburn got a library in 2003.

On Saturday, ground was broken for the Gum Spring Library, scheduled to open in late 2011 in the Dulles South area.

"The growing community needed other amenities," Montgomery said. "We had all the schools to build."

The libraries "weren't as critical," she said. "That's part of the reason we had to wait so long. There's only so much to go around."

Gum Spring will come to fruition through a public-private partnership, making it quite different from the system's seven other libraries.

Van Metre is donating the land and building the shell of a four-story office building as a proffer for the Stone Ridge community. The company will own the building -- with plans to sell office space on the third and fourth floors -- but deed 40,000 square feet on the first two floors to the library. Using a bond measure that voters have approved, the county will furnish the interior and stock 160,000 books.

Gum Spring Library will be the county's first two-story library. It will include a center for teens upstairs and a fairy-tale room for children downstairs. The sections with DVDs and bestselling books will be near the first-floor entrance.

Roy Barnett, group president of Burke-based Van Metre, was one of the promoters of the concept. He pursued the idea with the library's board of trustees and county supervisors. The money Van Metre spends will be treated as a credit against capital facility fees the company has to pay.

"We all know, with the budgetary constraints, these facilities could take years to materialize," Barnett said. "We felt like it would be a benefit for all parties for the community and surrounding areas to have a library sooner rather than later."

Douglas A. Henderson, the county's director of library services, said residents will also get a bigger library in a better location than they might have if the company had not offered the space.

"We have a lot of people down there that are going to Fairfax for libraries," he said. "We're finally supplying them the services they deserve. This library is going to be very, very heavily used."

Barnett said Loudoun is not the first place to combine a library and unrelated offices. He visited a library in Portland, Ore., that has two stories of residential housing atop it. Closer to home, in Rockville, a two-story library has government offices above.

Henderson said the county likes the public-private model and might try it again in the Moorefield Station area in a few years.

The Gum Spring Library will have its own entry, foyers and utilities. The company plans to build a condominium office building, and Barnett said his staff is entertaining offers from those interested in the space.

Montgomery, who is vice chairman of the Loudoun library system's board of trustees, started a nonprofit group called Friends of the Gum Spring Library about three years ago to raise awareness and money for what has been her 12-year pet project.

Her youngest child is a junior at Freedom High School. By the time the library opens, he'll be in college.

"I tell people that I'll take their children," she said.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company