Construction of Bel Air library addition expected to begin in spring $7.3 million expansion would double branch size

November 05, 1995|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,SUN STAFF

Harford County Library officials say construction of the long-awaited Bel Air branch expansion could begin as soon as April.

The planned 50,000-square-foot library at Pennsylvania and Hickory avenues will more than double the size of the library on that site.

"Ideally, we'd like to break ground during National Library Week [April 14 to 20] next year," said James Massey, the library's project manager.

Architect Gary Getz said engineers are working on some details of the design to keep the cost of the project at $7.3 million, the amount the county allowed for design, construction and furniture.

"We know we don't have an extravagant budget; we've been very sensitive to that," Mr. Getz told the board of library trustees in a presentation last week. He showed the trustees final floor plans of the two-story structure and architectural renderings of the exterior of the building.

The architects, Getz Taylor and Koster of Havre de Grace, and the construction manager, Bruce Carminati of CRSS Constructors Inc., will give a similar presentation to the Harford County Council on Tuesday.

Mr. Massey said construction is expected to take 14 to 18 months and the library will remain open. The addition likely will open after a year, when builders will begin renovating the original structure, Mr. Massey said. He said the project should be completed in the fall of 1997.

The expanded building will stretch east along Pennsylvania Avenue over the former parking lot and a portion of Shamrock Park donated by the town of Bel Air.

The new entrance will be on the lower level, along Pennsylvania Avenue, in an area connecting the old building to the addition. The main entrance now is on the second floor on Hickory Avenue.

An abundance of glass will lend an atrium effect to the new two-story lobby, Mr. Getz said. There will be 2-story-high windows on the outside wall, and glass walls around the second-floor adult section will buffer it from noise while allowing a view of the lobby.

A curved wall of windows along the back of the new building will provide a view of Shamrock Park and Bel Air Town Hall. More windows will be added to the Hickory Avenue side of the building.

The lower level of the new wing will be dominated by a children's area, including a large story-hour room for crafts and reading. The upper level will house adult fiction and nonfiction and expanded reference and audiovisual sections.

Study rooms will be built on the adult and children's levels with more public-access computer terminals on both levels, said Mr. Massey, who also is the library's coordinator of audiovisual and administrative services.

He said the most popular new addition might be the drive-in window, where patrons can drop off books, pick up an item on reserve or pay fines.

"It'll be just like McDonald's," he said. "We think the drive-in fits in with the fast-paced lives of people in the '90s."

It also is expected to alleviate a shortage of parking spaces.

The addition will have a brick exterior similar to that of the original building, and a series of sloped roofs over the entire structure will help tie together the new and old portions, Mr. Getz said.

The Bel Air library is the largest of Harford's nine branches. It was built in 1960, and a wing was added in 1967, when the branch had about 8,000 patrons. Today, about 75,000 people live in the Bel Air service area, Mr. Massey said.

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