Library hires first architects for $58M in new branches, upgrades

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The Indianapolis Public Library has hired architects to design new branches and update others, clearing the first hurdle of a $58 million long-range plan to improve services,

Library trustees in 2014 approved the plan that aims to reduce geographical gaps in coverage while making facilities more visible and accessible to the public.

Between 2016 and 2022, the library expects to build six new branches, including one in Glendale to replace the location tucked on the second floor of Glendale Town Center, 6101 N. Keystone Ave.

“We’re looking for better access,” library CEO Jackie Nytes said. “This whole [long-range] plan has ease of access written on about every single page.”

Trustees chose Axis Architecture + Interiors to design the $5.9 million Martindale-Brightwood branch on the near-northeast side and Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects for the $7.6 million branch on the northwest side.

In addition, they awarded the $2.4 million East Washington branch expansion to Mohler Architects of Lafayette, the $1 million renovation of the Southport branch to arcDesign of Indianapolis, and the $1 million renovation of the Warren Township branch to  HCO Inc. of Indianapolis.

The renovations should be finished by the end of next year. Site selection for the new Brightwood and Eagle branches is under way, with construction set to begin in late 2016.

“We’re so excited,” Drew White, a founding partner of Axis Architecture, said. “The Martindale Brightwood community desires a significant library presence, and right now they’re housed in small retail space.”

Library trustees plan to spread work among several firms as the long-range plan progresses.

“We have a lot of great firms in the city,” Nytes said, “so it’s our hope to give each project a different architect. We had a lot of great firms that wanted these first projects.”

The Martindale-Brightwood branch that will be replaced is in a strip center at 2435 N. Sherman Drive, near Massachusetts Avenue. Trustees are in discussions with four nearby property owners in hopes of coming to an agreement for a new site, Nytes said.

The stand-alone Eagle branch near West 34th Street about a block east of Georgetown Road is too small and not visible enough, she said. The library is in discussions with building owners in the Lafayette Square area to relocate to 38th Street and collaborate on events with the International Marketplace and its independent, ethnic businesses.

Converting a vacant car dealership along the corridor into a branch could be a possibility, Nytes said, because the architect selected for the project, Browning Day, performed the feat in  Cambridge City.

The Brightwood and Eagle branches should be finished in 2018, with construction set to begin the following year on four additional facilities.

Besides the new branch in Glendale, others are slated for Perry Township on the south side, Michigan Road on the northwest side, and in the city of Lawrence.

The new branch in Lawrence would be the city’s second. It would be built in the Fort Harrison area, which has undergone a rebirth in recent years. At the same time, the existing location in Lawrence, at 7898 Hague Road east of the interstate 465 and 69 interchange, is slated to be renovated, along with the branch in Wayne Township at 198 S. Girls School Road on the west side.

Work on those six projects should start in 2019 and finish in 2022.

Moving the 25,000-square-foot Glendale branch out of the mall could be the library system’s most challenging endeavor. Despite its second level location, and its accessability only via an elevator, the outlet still is among the library system’s most popular branches.

But like the Martindale-Brightwood location,  the Glendale space is leased by the library, which prefers to own. Trustees are searching for vacant buildings in the Glendale area and also are considering another option. A branch could be constructed on the mall’s parking lot, if an agreement can be reached with mall owner Kite Realty Group Trust Inc. The library’s lease at Glendale expires in 2022.

Branch projects will be funded from $58 million in bond issues approved by the City-County Council. Library officials say the projects will not increase the library's current debt-service tax rate.

Undertaking such expensive projects might seem risky at a time visits to city libraries are flat: 4.2 million visits last year compared with 4.3 million in 2013. But computer and electronic book usage are on the rise, helping to justify the risk, Nytes said.

“People are looking for community,” she said. “All of our work has suggested that they desire a third place—it’s not home and it’s not work, but it’s where I can go to see people and hide out and get something done.”

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