ARCHITECT PRESENTS POSSIBLE NEW GOLD COAST LIBRARY DESIGNS
September 14, 2015 -- This past Thursday, the Gold Coast Public Library hosted two public informational sessions that allowed community members to view and offer their thoughts regarding potential design concepts for a new library to be built at the Halms Industries site on Glen Head Road should the community, through a bond referendum to be held late this fall, direct the library board to obtain financing for the purchase of the property and construction of the new facility. Russell Davidson, president of KD&G Architects, the firm that has been hired by the library to develop the initial concepts, led the meeting presenting three designs that were based on feedback offered by dozens of residents who attended two community input sessions this past spring. Northwordnews attended this past Thursday's evening session.
Mr. Davidson had already presented similar designs to the board at public meetings held in early July and in mid-August, and said once again that they were "not cast in stone," and that the purpose of the meeting was to obtain feedback on what residents believed "would be best for this community." At the July meeting the Board had requested that he shrink the size of the proposals by about 20% from 25,000 to roughly 20,000 square feet.
The three concepts, each, as presented, would create about 20,000 square feet of space. Presently, the library on Railroad Avenue, including its rented space ("The Annex"), has an area of 6150 square feet. That larger space, Library Director Michael Morea said later during the discussion phase of the meeting, would not only enable the library to be to better able to meet demand for programs and space for reading, collaborative work among students, and other functions that many modern libraries perform, but also to keep on hand a larger collection, so that books do not need to be rotated out so frequently.
The architect's first concept was of a building that has three distinct sections - a center commons area with similar large entrances at both the front (on Glen Head Road) and the rear; a "pavillion" on the right (eastern) side of the building that included the library's collections and reading areas - divided into adult, teens, and children's sections; and a western pavillion with community, program, and conference rooms that could accommodate both large gatherings as well as smaller meetings such as classes, programs and book clubs. The largest of the community rooms would be able to accommodate retractable sloped seating that could be easily rolled out for films, performances and lectures. With regard to the parking and traffic flow, this concept includes a drop off/short term parking area at both the front and rear entrances with almost all of the parking located behind the building. Mr. Davidson emphasized the flexibility that this particular design offered, with spaces being combined, if necessary, or access being closed off to certain areas and rooms during particular types of events.
The second design Mr. Davidson presented was of a one and a half story structure, with a mezzanine and a round, semi-circular front facing Glen Head Road . While a small entry point would be located in the front of the building, the main entrance, parking and a drop off point would be in the rear. Like the first, the different "modules" could be closed off during different times.
A third design, featured rooms fanning out along the western side of the building, and like the other two, had a "modular" design, giving the facility flexibility, allowing sections to be closed off. He said that while the concept offered "a strong identity," it would probably be the most expensive to carry out.
Each of the three proposals, Mr. Davidson explained, would have an "open feeling" with natural wood structural accents and large glass walls, extending the heighth of the rooms, which would be nearly two stories tall. As he spoke, he showed images of similar "open" designs in other libraries.
When a resident asked if solar power were an option, Mr. Davidson, responded "absolutely" and added that with regard to lighting, which he said is a significant cost for libraries, the building realistically could be very close to being a "100% daylit building," with the large windows making daytime electrical lighting virtually unneccessary, and the power generated from solar panels covering the cost of lighting in the evening.
Mr. Morea said that there seemed to be general agreement among the Board of Trustees that the first concept - the one story design - offered the greatest flexibility and functionality, and that he preferred it as well from a director's standpoint, as it would allow for easier supervision than what exists presently at the library with it being multi-floored and divided between two buildings. He said he would be able to run the larger library with the same size staff, with the exception of the hiring of a custodian. Currently the library pays an outside service to clean in the evenings.
Questions and comments from residents varied greatly, with concerns about cost and process dominating the discussion early on and design considerations coming to the forefront later.
One resident asked how long the process of looking into finding a larger space had been going on. Mr. Morea explained that a mailer had been sent out to the community this past December that the Library was in negotiations to acquire the Halm property and that the search for a larger spaced began in 2010 after results from focus groups and from surveys mailed out to the community indicated that residents believe the current library space was very limited and that a larger facility was desirable.
Another asked if voters would see "detailed plans" of the proposed facility before the vote. He said he was uneasy with approving something without knowing exactly what the plan was going to be. "Your'e going to know exactly what is going to be in it," replied Mr. Davidson, saying that residents would know the size, number and location of the rooms, where the doors are located. Mr. Morea responded that the actual construction documents that would enable the builder to construct the facility would be developed after the referendum. The same resident asked when would residents know exactly when the vote will be held. Mr. Morea replied that state law requires 45 day notice, and so residents would know by November 1.
In response to a question regarding cost, Mr. Morea stated, as has been previously stated by the Board trustees, that it would likely be between 17 and $19,000,000 and that it would be financed through a bond. He suggested that residents go to the New Building Initiative website where they can use a "tax impact calculator" to see how the project would affect their individual taxes.
A resident, who had spoken earlier, said that he had heard Halm would be staying on the property after the purchase, Mr. Morea replied that Halm needed to do so in order to wind down operations and that they would pay rent during that period of time with rent payments equaling their current property taxes (about $110,000). The library, of course, would not be paying taxes on the property. The rent payments would be used to offset the cost of the property, Mr. Morea added.
When asked why the Town of Oyster Bay Community Center is not utilized for programs, a board trustee responded that the Town has been very difficult in sharing the facility. "We've asked if we can use it," she said, "and they have said 'no.'"
"Has the board looked at other properties to re-purpose?" the same resident asked. "Yes," Mr. Morea replied. Since he came to the library in 2011, he said that among the properties that had been looked at were Bernard's, the bank triangle across from the firehouse on Glen Head Road, which was quickly taken off the market, and another property on rte. 107.
The discussion turned abruptly in a new direction, towards the designs presented by Mr. Davidson, when an older gentleman stated that he believed the approach the library board was taking, as well as those who have been critical of the proposal's scale, was too "practical," and too short-sighted. "This plan is going to exist 50 years from now. This area does not have a center. . . We need a vision for the future. We have to be able to grow," he said.
The gentleman, describing the designs as "practical and interesting" but "not quite inspired," challenged the architect to "present something that excites us. . . Create an inspirational space." He said that he had said to the architect earlier, that "I hope you present something that makes you famous and brings something to this community that is very very special."
He continued that he would like the library to hold onto the entire 5.3 acres of the property rather than selling half of it. "The future of this property is more valuable than what we can get for it. It will be a part of the community. Public space is what defines a community. This could be that new and defining element." "I'm trying to inspire you," he concluded, "I'm trying to inspire the negativity I feel in this room. I don't see it that way. I want to see more."
"Public spaces define communities," the architect responded. "If you had to point to the center of your community, where would you point," he asked.
"Nowhere," the gentleman replied
"This could be that new defining element your talking about," Mr. Davidson said.
"It should be," the man replied.
"It could also raise property values," added another resident, saying that a great library and public space, along with the schools, could attract people to the area.
Another resident, who said she was a member of the Promenade Civic Association, said she agreed with the sentiments expressed by the gentleman. "I'm not understanding the negativity. 75 or $100 more on your tax bill?"
"We are trying to unite as a commnity and not be so segmented," the woman continued. "This is a very good thing and it's needed. . . This is beautiful," she said referring to the one story proposal. She added that she believed having the teen rooms on the mezzanine level in proposal two was not a good idea.
Another resident said that the schools are overutilized in the afternoons and in the evenings, and cited several examples, including that she would be taking her daughter to the high school for an event following the library meeting. "Anyone who says the schools are not utlized is 100% wrong," she said. Students, she explained needed a place to go to study and to work collaboratively, as that has increasingly become the nature of schooling. She suggested that spaces in the design for that purposed be enlarged.
The woman continued that the proposal for a larger library would also be a great benefit to senior citizens as well. The Town of Oyster Bay she believed was not "working up to its end of the bargain," with its facility on Glen Head Road, and "that there is not too much going on there."
"To me it's all about the kids," explained a resident who is a librarian at the Hicksville Public Library. He described a scene of kids rushing into the library every weekday afternoon to work on projects and to collaborate with each other. "There is high interest," he said. He described graduates returning from college, to visit. "It's a beautiful sight; it's about learning; the institution can make it happen. But it can't be small. It has to be big."
"The advice is, 'Jazz up number one a bit," the architect concluded. " . . . or a lot," looking at the gentleman who spoke of "inspiration."
(T. Madden, Northwordnews)
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