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Library addition heads for commission review

By Grace Lovins

Final site plan and design review for renovations and a small addition to the south side of the Baldwin Public Library received unanimous support from the Birmingham Planning Board on Wednesday, June 22, recommending it to the city commission for final approval.

This addition is part of phase three of the Baldwin Library renovation plan that was adopted by the library board in 2014. Phases one and two focused on interior renovations to the building, including the adult services area and youth room, and phase three will focus on lobby, public entrance and circulation renovations. The first phase was completed in May 2017 and the second phase in September of 2020. Phase three is hoped to be completed in 2023.

This renovation and addition would reconstruct the current outdoor plaza at the entrance to create an open, more flexible space for patrons, as well as improve the circulation area and provide access with upgraded services and offerings.

Steve Schneemann, the library's attorney, stated that the goals for the addition include creating a new main entry where the steps and ramp currently are located on the exterior of the building, would be pushed inside behind a glass door vestibule. Additionally, he said the reconstructed main entry and plaza will give residents a more accessible and inviting entrance and increase activity in and around the library.

The newly-designed plaza will include permanent benches attached to planters facing S. Bates Street as well as being attached to the wall adjacent to a proposed nanawall that will match the existing permanent benches on the east side of the building. Moveable furniture, including tables, chairs and umbrellas will sit inside the plaza square.

Planning board chairperson Scott Clein noted his approval of the proposed renovations. “For years, when the library has come to us with courtesy reviews ,we’ve talked about the fact that you’re on the park, and you need to embrace the park. Don’t turn your back on the park, and I finally see it happening so I’m very happy by that. Not only the collaboration space but the outdoor plaza – it ties so well,” Clein said. 

Responding to questions raised by board members and public attendees regarding functionality during construction, Schneemann and library director Rebekah Craft stated that the north side entrance will potentially serve as a temporary main entrance to the library, with an accessible ramp located on the outdoor terrace.

Additionally, parking spots in front of the current main entrance will most likely be blocked off during renovations, but the main parking areas will remain open and untouched by the renovations.

Although site plan approval is not required for municipal projects, city policy has the planning board perform courtesy reviews of municipal projects to offer input before the plan is given to the city commission for final approval.


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