Silver Spring reworks plans for new library

By Alison Bryant
The Gazette
Thursday, December 9, 2010; T19

Silver Spring opened a fresh chapter in its quest for a new library recently, as architects unveiled plans for a streamlined building that planners say will meet residents' needs while staying within the county's budget.

"This is really a 21st-century library, and it's not going to be the library you're used to," said Gregory Lukmire, a partner at the Annapolis and Arlington County-based Lukmire Partnership architectural firm, which is designing the library at Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. "I think we've gotten to the point where we believe the design, as it stands, is an improvement on the original and has gotten closer to meeting the county budget."

The design cuts the building's size from 120,000 to 105,000 square feet, which will reduce construction costs from $35 million to $32 million. The county announced in August that it had a $3 million budget overrun because of the size, floor plan and materials used in the original design. The total budget for the library project is $63.7 million, including the land and design costs.

The library's three floors will still measure 65,000 square feet - as in the original plan - which is almost five times bigger than the current library on Colesville Road, said Don Scheuerman, acting section chief of the Montgomery County Department of General Services.

The seven-floor building will include a coffee shop, meeting rooms, county offices and space for the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, a Silver Spring-based nonprofit contemporary arts center dedicated to the creation and appreciation of hand papermaking, printmaking, digital arts and books.

Four meetings were held from April to July 2009 to obtain community feedback on the exterior design. County staff members and architects presented a comprehensive and nearly complete design - the design that ran over budget - in August.

The architects presented the latest plans for the library to more than 30 people at a public meeting Nov. 30, receiving a generally positive response.

In the new design, residents will have the escalators they fought so hard to keep. Residents said they wanted the escalators, which will be visible through a glass wall, because their motion will give life to the building and make it seem inviting to those passing by.

The escalators will crisscross from the lobby to the library on the third floor. People also can take elevators from the Wayne Avenue or Fenton Street entrances to the upper floors.

County staff members and architects had opposed the idea initially because escalators can be expensive, they take up more space than an elevator and they break down fairly frequently.

The library still sits on the third, fourth and fifth floors, as it did in the original plan. A basement - which is a new addition to the design - will provide more work space for Pyramid Atlantic. The first floor also will include the lobby, a coffee shop, an art gallery and a stop on the state's proposed Purple Line, a 16-mile light-rail line that would run east-west between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

The architects moved public meeting rooms to the second floor from the seventh floor to reduce costs. Keeping the rooms on the higher floor would have necessitated construction of more staircases to meet fire codes, which would have been costly, Lukmire said.

The new design significantly reduces the size of the sixth and seventh floors, which would house the Pyramid Atlantic work space and Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services office space, respectively. The reduction adds fifth-floor green roof space that will include a terrace.

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