Construction Begins on New Main Library

By: 
Sean Belk
MAYOR ROBERT GARCIA, second from left, signs the first steel column of the new Main Library along with, from right, Long Beach Public Library Director Glenda Williams, City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, State Sen. Janet Nguyen and 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga.

City leaders, state representatives and community members gathered near City Hall in Downtown Long Beach on Tuesday, Sept. 19, to celebrate the start of major construction on the new Main Library, anticipated to be a “centerpiece” to the city’s Long Beach Civic Center rebuild project.

According to city officials, the new library, expected to be completed in summer 2019, will be a state-of-the-art, 92,500 square-foot facility, featuring new technology, community spaces, collaborative workrooms, expanded studio makerspace, an enhanced children’s library and separate areas for teens and adults. At the north end of a revitalized Lincoln Park, the new library at Ocean Boulevard and Pacific Avenue will come with energy-efficient features, such as glassy facades to provide natural lighting.

“The library is my favorite part of the whole Civic Center project,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “To me, the centerpiece of this entire development is going to be this amazing library, because I think it represents what cities really should be doing and that is: education, supporting people and providing families with access to improving their own lives in the ways that we can.”

During the ceremony, construction workers erected the new library’s first steel column, which was signed by community members and city officials. In addition, members of the Rotary Club of Long Beach presented the Long Beach Public Library Foundation (LBPL) with a check for $250,000 to be dedicated to the children’s story time and literacy area in the new library.

The new Main Library is part of the city’s Long Beach Civic Center rebuild project, which officially broke ground last year and also includes building a new City Hall, Port of Long Beach Headquarters and revitalizing Lincoln Park, among other developments.

The Civic Center rebuild project, expected to cost more than $530 million and being funded through a public-private partnership with Plenary Edgemoor Civic Partners (PECP), is moving forward after studies declared more than a decade ago that the existing City Hall and Main Library buildings, both built in the late 1970s, are “significantly seismically deficient,” functionally obsolete, energy inefficient, and would be public-safety risks in an earthquake.

According to Mayor Garcia, the new library will bring a “revitalized civic core to downtown to serve residents and businesses, attract visitors and provide safe and efficient city operations.” He said the building will include sustainable features to receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating, including a large solar-panel area on the roof that will generate power for the library as well as the new City Hall and Port buildings.

“I think it’s important for us to remember that libraries are not just a place where you walk in and check out a book,” Mayor Garcia said. “Libraries are literally centers of education, where people do research, where families get together to enjoy time together, where seniors can come and learn new skills and go on new adventures. It’s also a place where low-income families have access to services, advice and support in our community.”

Jeannine Pearce, 2nd District councilmember, said the new Main Library will be a place for people to learn about the arts and will add to the commercial and residential renovations occurring downtown.

“It’s an exciting time for Long Beach to have the library as the cornerstone of our downtown, where we have development going on around us,” she said. “We’ve got residential units popping up everywhere in downtown and we’ve got culture thriving here.”

Since the completion of the new Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library in North Long Beach last year, the number of visitors to the branch has increased by 70 percent while participation in programs are up 90 percent, noted JP Shotwell, board president of LBPL Foundation, which recently received the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

“It’s a classic case of ‘if you build it they will come,’” he said, adding that LBPL has raised more than $20 million for the city’s libraries over the past 20 years and a new campaign to raise funds for the new Main Library will be launched next year.

Jeff Fullerton, project director for PECP, said that, while there were differences in what to cut out of the budget, it was agreed to not reduce the Main Library’s size. He added that the new library, being built on top of a parking garage, was a main focus in developing the design and vision for the new Civic Center.

“This is going to be a marque library,” Fullerton said. “It’s what a main library should be. It’s your downtown library and we hope that it becomes a civic gathering place for everybody going forward.”

sean@beachcomber.news

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