Library expansion plans for Roland Park revealed

Proposal seeks to double floor space of building

June 19, 2000|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A proposed dramatic redesign of the Roland Park library that could close the building for a year has been unveiled to a moderate reception.

For two years, the North Baltimore community has worked to raise $290,000 to keep the 75-year-old gray stone library open under the Enoch Pratt Free Library's plan for the 21st century, which calls for a few large regional libraries and phasing out small neighborhood branches less than 6,000 square feet.

Pratt librarians were on hand at St. David's Church last week to hear architect Charles Alexander present the schematic design of a library expansion, which he said would double the library's present 4,200 square feet.

An outdoor reading terrace and a children's amphitheater near the sidewalk were among the features shown to the Roland Park Civic League in a slide show.

The project will be financed by the community and the city, which will contribute about $800,000.

The most striking departure from the old building, which is largely preserved in the new design, is the absence of stairs leading to the entrance. "If there was one big trade-off, that would be it," said Alexander, whose practice is in Ellicott City.

A proposed ramp leading into the building complies with accessibility law, he said, and would make carrying things inside, from deliveries to library books to babies, easier.

Placing the entrance at the lower level would also make possible a quieter, vaulted reading room for adults upstairs, he said, with the library's signature arched windows made more prominent on the 5700 block of Roland Ave.

"A sense of pause within the building is a key need," Alexander said.

The enlarged library would have almost five times as much space for reference and technology, including 12 computer work stations.

The library would build out along the Blackberry Lane border, but become smaller and more residential in character along side streets.

Librarians who advised on program needs said Pratt officials are satisfied with the design's integration of look and function.

The elevated appearance of the familiar library takes some getting used to, but most seemed receptive to the ideas. To the extent possible, materials matching the gray stone will be used.

The city's Design Advisory Panel will review the rendering next month. In the meantime, residents may record their comments with the civic league until July 15.

Construction will likely start in April, and take about a year.

Susan Newhouse, chairman of the Roland Park Civic League's library committee, praised the activism and volunteer spirit that led residents to attend the Wednesday night meeting.

"Design and neighborhood ought to work together. It's so easy not to do the work," she said. "This community has worked very hard."

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