Plans moving forward for St. Charles library expansion, renovation

A multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation of the St. Charles Public Library is likely to move forward after city aldermen supported development plans this week.

The proposed project encompasses the entire library property at 1 S. Sixth Ave., as well as the adjacent St. Mark's Lutheran Church, allowing for shared parking and interconnecting walkways.

By shutting down parts of Walnut and Sixth avenues, library leaders say they're aiming to create a "neighborhood campus" with more efficient traffic flow and pedestrian access.

The library building also would get a makeover with the addition of two wings and the reconfiguration of interior space.

The roughly $18.6 million plan calls for creating a new entrance, a drive-up window, a makerspace, a new teen room, updated infrastructure, and new meeting and study rooms. A large reading area would be added in one addition, and an updated children's area would look out to a new sunken terraced garden for outdoor programming, said Don McKay of Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects.

The library's historic Carnegie Library, originally constructed in 1908, would be incorporated into the renovation as a quiet research and study area, he said. No major changes are planned for that space.

The planning and development committee on Monday unanimously approved the proposed plans, which have been tweaked since the concept was first presented to aldermen in August. Based on comments from the city's advisory plan commission, architects have added and realigned sidewalks, updated some exterior design elements and made improvements to the joint parking lot, McKay said.

While reviewing the updated plans, some aldermen stressed the importance of maintaining adequate landscaping throughout the property. Alderman Maureen Lewis said she doesn't want the building's increased footprint to overpower the site or the surrounding neighborhood.

Architects are trying to "strike a good balance" between green space and the desired improvements, McKay said, noting the library expansion is "very modest" compared to earlier proposals.

"I think it's also an opportunity to really improve the building," he said, "and to really reintegrate the Carnegie Library into the daily activity of the library."

Work on the facility is expected to begin next spring, pending final approval from the city council. Library operations will be temporarily relocated into the former Haines Middle School during construction, per an agreement with St. Charles Unit District 303.

A renovation plan at the St. Charles Public Library includes the creation of a new entrance. Courtesy of the city of St. Charles
A multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation plan at the St. Charles Public Library includes a courtyard and sunken terraced garden for outdoor programming. Courtesy of the city of St. Charles
The original Carnegie Library will be incorporated into a multimillion-dollar plan to expand and renovate the St. Charles Public Library at 1 S. Sixth Ave. Courtesy of the city of St. Charles
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