Three Options Presented For Library Design

by Ryan Bray
A public forum is scheduled for Jan. 23 at the Snow Library, where three design options for a new library will be discussed and presented.  RYAN BRAY PHOTO A public forum is scheduled for Jan. 23 at the Snow Library, where three design options for a new library will be discussed and presented. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – Presented with three potential design options for a new Snow Library earlier this month, the select board raised questions as to how to best accommodate parking for a new building if it is sited on Main Street.

The design options will be presented to the public at a forum on Jan. 23.

The existing library dates back to 1952 and has twice been renovated, most recently in 1992. But the building no longer meets the needs of a modern library and cannot meet the increased demand for programming space in town. Many aspects of the building are also out of code compliance.

The Snow Library Feasibility Task Force has been working with Oudens Ello Architecture in recent months to design a new 24,000-square-foot library building. The task force, as well as the Snow Library board of trustees, envision a larger building with expanded reading and working areas, safe storage space for archival materials, natural light, state-of-the-art technology and more space for programming and wider community use.

The new building would also include additional parking, even if it’s less than is required under local zoning. Matt Oudens told the select board Jan. 3 that the 64 parking spaces planned for the building in its existing footprint represents a 20 percent reduction from the 80 required under the bylaw.

“Which to us seems excessive, frankly,” he said. Oudens said the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, through whom the trustees are applying for a construction grant to help finance the project, requires 60 spaces, one for every 400 square feet.

Two options presented to the select board show a building with two wings. A single-story wing would house the new library’s community facilities, including a large community meeting room and a programming room, as well as space for a kitchen, cafe, storage and public restrooms.

The second wing would be two stories, with adult, children’s and teen programming areas on the first floor along with computers, periodicals and large print media. Upstairs would be used as additional space for adult programming, Oudens said.

Both options also feature a large parking area with trees interspersed throughout to break up the pavement. Plans also show two entry plazas outside, one fronting Main Street and the other leading into the building from the parking lot. First and second floor covered porch options are also shown.

“We always think it’s nice to find ways to have patrons have direct access to outdoor space, whether that’s for reading or for programming,” Oudens said.

The third option deviates from the others, showing a more compact building with two stories. The design would allow natural light to shine down through the top of the building onto the library’s foyer on the first floor.

While plans do not show room for a basement, Steve Gass, who chairs the task force, said one could be designed for mechanical and storage needs, but not for programming.

Oudens said the third option also may result in a taller building, perhaps 10 feet higher than what is allowed under current zoning.

All three options call for better integrating the new library with the neighboring Village Green. Currently, the library’s parking lot separates the building from the green area.

“We think that’s a real missed opportunity in that there’s an opportunity to leverage the best asset of this combined parcel, the library parcel and the Village Green, to create a better synergy between those two areas,” Oudens said.

But town officials wondered if the project could get away with less parking onsite, with Mefford Runyon of the select board noting the amount of street parking that exists on Main Street in the immediate area of the current library.

“It just seems to me that maximizing the parking that’s in the general area rather than creating it from scratch could free up other planning,” he said.

Town Manager Kim Newman agreed, while also pointing to available parking that might be able to be utilized outside school hours behind the library and up the hill at Nauset Regional Middle School.

“That’s a conversation worth having with the district,” she said.

But at least 60 parking spaces are required for the project to be eligible for a construction grant through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, Oudens noted. That grant could cover between 30 and 40 percent of the project’s construction cost.

In terms of arranging for spaces with Nauset school officials, Gass said that could be easier said than done.

“I think it would be challenging to get their agreement to do that,” he said.

But Newman pressed the need for parking on the site to be re-examined. The library parking lot would be about as big as the large parking lot at Friends Marketplace, and while a tree-lined buffer would exist between the two properties, the town manager said the view from Main Street would still be very gray.

“Putting a parking lot next to a parking lot seems to create an even bigger parking void in the middle of Main Street,” she said.

But grade and elevation changes on the property, including a hill behind the building leading to the middle school, limit the number of possible configurations, Oudens said. He said while the design could be altered so that the new building fronts Main Street, that option would require the addition of an asphalt driveway, adding more pavement to the project area.

“I think I would feel much better if that buffer space where the trees are was expanded and that looked greener,” Newman said.

Andrea Reed of the select board said as plans develop, she’d like to see a schematic of the building with a street-level view from Main Street.

“We will eventually get there, and we’ll get there as part of this study,” Oudens said.

Plans for the new library also call for solar panels. Select Board Chair Michael Herman, meanwhile, spoke with interest in the library being built as a net zero building. Oudens said that effort would first involve an analysis of the current building’s energy load, as well as how much space is available for solar or other methods of reducing the building’s energy use.

The 67 Main St. site is the preferred location for the task force and the trustees. But as a condition of the state grant, they’re also looking at an alternative site across from town hall at 139 Main St.

“We’re moving forward with this [current library site],” Newman said. “If and when we receive the grant, that would be great. And if we don’t receive the grant, we’re still working on a project that won’t have the same requirements and restrictions. We’ll be back at this in a different way, potentially.”

Another condition of receiving the MBLC grant is town support for the project. That could come through the approval of a town meeting article in May seeking $150,000 for “assessment, planning, feasibility and/or design” related to the project.

For Joan Francolini, who chairs the board of trustees, all eyes are on getting the MLBC grant, the application for which is due May 31.

“That’s our big prize right now,” she said. “That’s what all our energy should go to.”

A public forum will be held Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the library, where the design options will again be presented. There also will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions.

Kevin Galligan of the select board said that feedback from the Jan. 23 forum, as well as a similar one that was held in November, will be instrumental in moving the library plans forward.

“I’d rather not put any stamp on it from us until we’ve let that process run its course,” he said.

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