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Café, aquarium to highlight new library youth area

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 12, 2019

BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham City Commission voted 6-0 Feb. 25 to develop and issue a request for proposals for the construction of an updated and expanded youth services section at the Baldwin Public Library.

The plans for the effort, which will be the second phase of a three-phase process to renovate the historical downtown building, were presented to the commission by Library Director Doug Koschik. Phase one was completed in the spring of 2017 with the grand reopening of the revamped adult services section, and phase three is still to come, with a redo of the public entrance, the lobby, the circulation desk and the outdoor seating space.

Luckenbach Ziegelman Gardner Architects prepared the conceptual schematics for the design of the youth room, which will be expanded by 40 percent to the north, east and south, adding 2,000 square feet. The work will make the space more accessible for all users, with a widened hallway and full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

There will be floor-to-ceiling heat- and glare-resistant glass windows trimming the space, with the opposite side meeting up to the historical 1927 building, leaving the original brick and detail exposed as an interior design feature.

A children’s garden and terrace between the room and the original building are on the agenda too, along with an aquarium and a café near the entrance.

The total cost, Koschik said, is estimated to be around $2,447,823. A little more than $2 million of that will be collected over the course of three years from an existing library millage first approved by voters in 1998 for 1.75 mills. That’s since been decreased in accordance with the state’s Headlee Amendment cap, and it now stands at 1.1 mills for basic library operating expenses. The remaining project funds are to be paid for by the library through fundraising.

“We fully understand the city will not be giving us any more money beyond the additional millage of three years,” Koschik said. “So we are eager, of course, to get the bids and hope they will be on or under budget. If not, we will have to make some hard decisions.”

The construction itself is estimated to cost around $1.5 million, followed by $109,000 for landscaping and $485,000 for fixtures, furniture and other costs to total the proposed estimate.

The three-phase plan is a rethinking of a $21.6 million bond proposal to renovate the library that was voted down nearly five years ago. The new plan was hatched between city leaders and library officials to take care of the building’s most pressing needs without bringing taxpayers into the mix. The increased library millage was offset for three years by a reduced city millage.

Like he was for phase one, Building Official Bruce Johnson will serve as the project manager for the work, and weekly meetings will take place with his department and library staff to keep everyone on the same page.

Koschik told the board that, like any renovation, concessions will need to be made by staff and patrons alike, including occasionally limited access to main floor restrooms and a scaled-down version of the youth collection available during that time.

“Some of it will be moved to the adult section, but a majority of materials will be taken off-site and put into air conditioned storage,” he said. “Programming will be somewhat curtailed during this period, but The Community House has volunteered to assist us in providing space, and we hope to provide programs off-site.”

Commissioner Rackeline Hoff pressed Koschik on the availability of Americans with Disabilities Act amenities for guests during the construction period, namely the wheelchair ramp at the front of the building. The commission was assured that patrons of all abilities will be able to safely enter and exit the library, without worry of construction debris.

“By the architectural plans we were given, it was clear that (the ramps) are still open,” noted Commissioner Carroll DeWeese. “Until we go to phase three and we have an elevator put in at the ground level, that’s the only way for people in wheelchairs to get up (to the entrance) unless you want to carry wheelchairs in by hand.”

Without further questions, the commission voted to approve the issuance of the RFP, with Commissioner Stuart Sherman absent.

The bids are due by April 10, at which time they’ll be reviewed by a committee of library staff, city staff and construction experts.

For more information on the plans, visit