Pikesville face-lift adds next chapter - library

Senior center expansion also due in downtown

October 04, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,Sun reporter

The building housing the Pikesville library and senior center is about to get a face-lift and more space - another step in a continuing effort to upgrade the community's aging downtown area.

A groundbreaking ceremony was scheduled for today on a $4.18 million project to renovate and expand the Pikesville Community Center on Reisterstown Road.

"We are reinventing the core of Pikesville, and we have asked merchants to help us renovate and revitalize [the area] ... and the county is doing the same," said Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat who represents Pikesville. "This will benefit the ones that use the county library and senior center, and it will also benefit the commercial businesses, and bring more people to the county and downtown Pikesville."

Opened in 1982, the 18,000- square-foot Pikesville library has become increasingly limited in its ability to keep pace with technology and the needs of the 530,000 customers that visited last year, officials said.

"We're trying to make it as a new as we can," said Jim Fish, director of the county's library system. "The issue for both the library and the senior center is they were successful and when they were built; we did not know how successful they would have been. Now we can expand the spaces and upgrade."

The renovation of the library will consist of new shelving and carpeting, in addition to upgraded lighting and new doors and repairs to the building's facade. The expansion will add 3,500 square feet for a new children's activity center, a reading area and express checkout and book return stations.

For the senior center, on the second floor of the building, another 3,500 square feet will be added to increase classroom space and add room for programs. In addition, following a countywide initiative promoting health among seniors, the center will get a 1,500-square-foot senior fitness center.

"It's a very busy senior center that has over 1,200 members, and will increase that number with more baby boomers. And the expansion is a great opportunity for the Pikesville community," said Arnold J. Eppel, the director of the county's Department of Aging.

The renovation of both facilities is expected to take nine months. During that time, officials said they will be conscious of the effect on customers, but they caution that there will be inconveniences throughout the construction projects.

Fish said that at some point library services will be temporarily moved to the building's meeting room, where staff can set up many of the services - and a few thousand books.

"We are trying to get it done as quickly as possible and the library intends to run a `mini-library' when they can't have access to the general library," Fish said.

Eppel said some senior services will be temporarily transferred off-site during the renovation process. He said staff will encourage customers to sign up for a newsletter to keep them informed of changes and where events will be transferred.

The sprucing up of Pikesville's downtown area is designed to attract more people to the area to help the local economy, officials have said. In addition to the library and senior renovations, the county has allocated several million dollars in loans to private developers.

In May, county police opened a new precinct in a $4.2 million brick-and-glass building on Milford Mill Road, just west of Reisterstown Road.

County officials have said they attracted more than $57 million in private investments in the past five years for the redevelopment of downtown. One project, dubbed The Courtyard @ Centre Court project, by Vanguard Equities, included plans to renovate storefronts on Reisterstown Road and improve pedestrian access.

tyrone.richardson@baltsun.com

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