Wednesday, November 12, 2008

County to choose from three library designs - Gazette

Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008
County to choose from three library designs
by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer

How the proposed site for the new Silver Spring library mixed-use project integrates with the surrounding community will depend on which of three designs are chosen by county officials in the coming weeks.

After a series of community meetings with the project's architects, three designs were chosen for the site, which will include a new library, a high-rise residential building, an art center, public use space and potentially a Purple Line stop at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton and Bonifant streets.

The designs vary in the layout of the site, the number of levels in the library and the number of units in the residential building. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) is expected to review the designs today. The Montgomery County Council will review plans Nov. 20.

Representatives from the project's architect, Washington-D.C.-based RTKL, presented the designs to residents Thursday at the current Silver Spring Library at 8901 Colesville Road.

Most residents favored a design that had a four-story library fronting on Bonifant and Fenton streets, because it would fit with the current density on those streets. A 14-story, 140-unit residential building would front on Wayne, adjacent to The Crescent apartment building, which would be almost an identical size.

A 23,000-square-foot art center would front Bonifant Street at street-level and the ground floor of the apartment building would include retail shops. Two additional floors of county office space totaling 40,000 square feet would be added on top of the library. This design was the only one to include office space.

The Purple Line, which was incorporated in each design, would run at street level beneath an elevated portion of the library that would be roughly parallel to Fenton and surrounded by at least 12,500 square feet of public-use space.

"It's a place where you can hang out and have a cup of coffee," said Douglas McCoach, vice president of RTKL.

This option was preferred by residents because the taller residential building would be closer to the Central Business District to the north, while the smaller library building would fit better with Fenton Village to the south of the site.

"I see Wayne as a divider here," said Celandra Deane-Bess, who lives across from the proposed site on Bonifant Street. "[North of Wayne] is the busy part and a high-rise is better located on a busy street."

A setback for this option was the lack of access to the library from the nearby Wayne Avenue garage, which could require about 150 parking spaces under the library, McCoach said. Also, the design offers 140 residential units, fewer than the other options provided. Fewer units could mean lower bids from prospective private developers, McCoach said.

Under this option, the library would be developed separately from the residential building, which is the recommended phasing of the project by RTKL.

"We don't want the schedule of the development of the library to be dependent upon a private developer," McCoach said.

Another option features separate development, with the library closer to Wayne and the residential building fronting Fenton. This option would allow for 176 residential units in a 12-story building.

A third option features an integrated library and residential building, a design option requested by the County Council. A four-story library would front on Bonifant but half of a 10-story residential building would extend on top of the library. The 164-unit residential building would be U-shaped, with one end fronting on Wayne. McCoach said building on top of the library would be more costly and time-consuming for private developers.

For all design options, Leggett has recommended 30 percent of housing units as workforce housing, 30 percent moderately-priced dwelling units and 40 percent sold at market rate.

All of the design options to be considered include at least a 60,000-square-foot library, more than twice the size of the current library and a significant increase over previous recommendations. The size of the library in relation to those it will serve is comparable to Rockville, Wheaton and Germantown, said Rita Gale, a public service administrator for Montgomery County Public Libraries.

"All 80,000 [Silver Spring residents] aren't going to use the library," she said.

But residents were still concerned Thursday that the proposed size of the library will not meet growing demographics in Silver Spring.

"To say it's the same size library as a more rural area or a much smaller town is not a fair comparison," said Darian Unger, chairman of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. Unger said while the size of the library is comparable to the Rockville Library, Silver Spring has far more residents surrounding the proposed site.

Under the option that includes two floors of office space, that space could be converted to serve the library if necessary, McCoach said.

Costs for each of the options could not be determined until a more detailed site plan is drafted. Currently, $30 million has been set aside for the library with about $15 million spent on acquiring the land and much of the remaining funds covering the design of the site, Stith said.

"[The County Council] knows they are going to have to add more money to build this library," Stith said.

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