This rendering, by the architectural firm of Quinn Evans, shows how a planned two-story addition to the back of the Grosse Pointe Public Library’s Central Branch in Grosse Pointe Farms will look.

This rendering, by the architectural firm of Quinn Evans, shows how a planned two-story addition to the back of the Grosse Pointe Public Library’s Central Branch in Grosse Pointe Farms will look.

Image provided by Quinn Evans

Construction on addition to library’s Central Branch likely to start this fall

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 27, 2021


GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Like its sister branches in Grosse Pointe Park and Grosse Pointe Woods, the Central Branch of the Grosse Pointe Public Library, at 10 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Farms, will be undergoing some significant upgrades.

Library officials presented their proposal — which includes a two-story addition at the back for more programming space, and a reconfigured rear parking lot — to the Grosse Pointe Farms City Council at a meeting June 14 at Pier Park. Seeking additional information, the council decided to table a vote on the site plan until a special meeting June 28 at City Hall.

City Councilman John Gillooly, who was ready to vote on the issue June 14 and felt the council was holding the library “to a higher standard,” cast the sole vote against tabling site plan approval to June 28; he did vote in favor of tabling a vote on the parking.

Grosse Pointe Public Library Director Jessica Keyser said community members expressed a desire for more quiet reading spaces, as well as more spaces where people could be louder. She said the Central Branch also needed an elevator to make the second floor more accessible, along with expanded and improved restrooms.

During the June 28 meeting, the City Council voted unanimously in favor of a site plan for the library’s addition, as well as a parking exception. The reconfigured parking lot will shrink by three spaces, from 25 to 22.

Changes at the library are in keeping with the interests of patrons, and they began last year with the addition of a patio and outdoor seating area, as well as a ramp for accessibility, off the front of the building on Kercheval.

“We went through an extensive strategic plan process in 2017,” Keyser told the council June 14. “We got great feedback from people of all ages.”

She said the completed strategic plan was adopted on April 28, 2019.

Ann Dilcher, a principal with Quinn Evans, the architectural firm working on the library, said June 14 that the addition enables them to expand the youth area “substantially” and create space on the second floor for public programs, open study, tutoring tables and a separate space for teens.

“This building … didn’t have enough space for programs and services,” said Abby Ward, the Grosse Pointe Farms representative on the Grosse Pointe Public Library Board.

Although it’s an expansion, Keyser said this is a “scaled back version of our original plan.”

The addition is taller than the original portion of the building “because we need the overrun for the elevator,” Dilcher explained.

With the success of curbside service during the pandemic, library officials decided to add a drive-thru window off the back of the building to make picking up materials faster and easier for patrons.

All of the changes with the addition meant that the delivery door needed to be moved from its current location, off the back of the building and facing the Grosse Pointe South High School athletic fields, to the Fisher Road side of the building, facing homes. Some residents and city officials expressed concerns about this.

In response, library officials returned June 28 with more landscaping to screen the delivery area and more architectural interest on the overhead rolling door and surrounding elements, including frosted glass, that echoes the original building’s “simple design” while providing “a more gracious aesthetic,” said Karin Neubauer, of Quinn Evans.

“The fixes that you’ve shown us are an improvement,” City Councilman Lev Wood said.

Wood said he appreciated the use of harmonious materials and the efforts to soften the appearance with landscaping.

“I’m looking forward to improving the library, that’s for sure,” City Councilman James Farquhar said June 14. “I think it’s a good plan for the use of our library.”

City Councilwoman Beth Konrad-Wilberding said there was “adequate parking all the way around” even with the loss of three spaces in the library’s parking lot. The library has an agreement with school officials so it’s able to use 20 adjacent South parking spaces, Neubauer said.

Library officials confirmed that these changes won’t impact the historical status of the building. Earlier this year, the GPPL learned that the Central Branch had been named to the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Built in 1953, the library was designed by Bauhaus-trained architect and designer Marcel Breuer, who died in 1981. It’s one of the few libraries designed by Breuer, who also designed the Hunter College Library in New York and the Atlanta Central Public Library in Georgia.

Keyser said they hoped to start work on this project in the fall. At press time, she said they were still working out the construction timeline.

Because of the large scale of the project, the library is expected to be closed for a period during construction.