St. Charles aldermen get early look at public library renovation plans

  • Two new wings will be added to the St. Charles Public Library building if a proposed $18.6 million renovation and expansion plan moves forward.

    Two new wings will be added to the St. Charles Public Library building if a proposed $18.6 million renovation and expansion plan moves forward. Courtesy of the city of St. Charles

  • A larger, reconfigured parking lot, two new building wings and additional green space are included in plans to improve the St. Charles Public Library property.

    A larger, reconfigured parking lot, two new building wings and additional green space are included in plans to improve the St. Charles Public Library property. Courtesy of the city of St. Charles

 
 
Posted8/13/2019 5:33 AM

Parking reconfiguration, road closures and additional green space are incorporated into a multimillion-dollar plan to upgrade and expand the St. Charles Public Library.

St. Charles aldermen got an early look Monday at a concept plan for the proposed project, which includes gutting, renovating and adding two wings to the facility at 1 S. Sixth Ave.

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The roughly $18.6 million plan aims to modernize the space while offering both innovative and traditional library experiences for their patrons, library officials said. But they also want to improve efficiency outside the building, where they're proposing developing a neighborhood campus with connectivity to the adjacent St. Mark's Lutheran Church.

The concept plan calls for shutting down portions of Walnut Avenue and Sixth Avenue to expand the library's parking lot from 165 spaces to 220, city documents show. A drive-up lane and window would be added at the southwest corner of the library.

Additionally, a courtyard would be added to the east side of the building, and a possible "discovery zone" play area could be created along Illinois Avenue, pending discussions with other government agencies, said Don McKay, of Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects.

At a meeting last week, the city's plan commission recommended increasing pedestrian access throughout the property. Those concerns were addressed Monday in a revised site plan showing more walkways, which Alderman Rita Payleitner said she appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The fact is, we need to strike the right balance between car and pedestrian (use)," McKay said, noting the updated plans demonstrate a "reconsideration of prioritization."

The additional parking is desired to accommodate heavy traffic during events at both the library and the church, McKay said. Alderman Art Lemke questioned whether a taxing district should be worrying about a private entity's parking needs.

Several aldermen said they supported the library's proposed plans, which include a new entrance, an outdoor patio, a "grand reading room" with a fireplace and furniture, new meeting rooms, additional study space and a makerspace. Infrastructure will be updated, staff offices will be relocated, and a sunken terraced garden will be created for outdoor programming.

The library's original Carnegie Building, built in 1908, will remain intact as a quiet research and study area, library leaders said. Elements of the historic architecture will be incorporated into the library's exterior renovation, McKay said, noting the facades of the new wings will complement the existing structure.

If development plans move forward, library officials expect to begin the work next spring. Library operations will temporarily move into the former Haines Middle School building during construction.

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