New Milford library project enters third phase
NEW MILFORD — The designs for the New Milford Public Library’s modernization are nearing completion as the project enters its third phase.
“This is basically the plan the town will build,” Jim Lothrop, of the design firm Lothrop Associates, told the Town Council Monday night. He said the finishes and exterior color of the addition are still being worked out, but it would most likely be stucco.
Lothrop Associates will next create the construction documents, with $435,000 from the Waste Management Fund approved for the phase by the Town Council Monday.
“The stacks will be oriented in a way to avoid hidden or closed areas,” Lothrop said. “The atmosphere will be open, safe and welcoming. That’s important for a good, healthy library.”
The design would increase the occupancy by about 50 percent.
Under the plans, a second floor with an outdoor terrace would be added to the existing 1977 addition. The building would also get a new facade and entrance, which is meant to help the 1977 addition fit in better with the two other historic buildings that make up the library, as well as the character of the surrounding neighborhood. By moving the entrance slightly and lessening the grade of the sidewalk approaching the building, the library would also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There will also be an elevator in the entrance and larger one-stall bathrooms that are accessible. A key element of the design is the addition of meeting rooms throughout the library, something staff and the public have wanted for years. The design includes rooms of varying sizes, with most on the new second floor. The architects are also looking at how to close off the restrooms and auditorium from the rest of the library so those spaces can be used after hours.
“We’re trying to get a good mix to meet the diverse needs the public is looking for,” Lothrop said.
The rest of the design includes using existing space. Under the plans, the children’s library would move to the 1977 section and the Goodwin House, freeing up the old library for an adult reading room. The children’s section would also share a program room with the young adult section, which doesn’t have its own space at the library now.
There will also be a self-serve cafe on the first floor.
“It will encourage people to stay and interact with the community,” Lothrop said.
The mezzanine level would be used for more stacks and house the library staff.
Library officials and the architects are still working out whether the library would remain open during the construction or temporarily relocate. Lothrop said it would be quicker and cheaper for the library to relocate.
Councilwoman Jessica Richardson suggested the library space at the newly renovated John Pettibone Community Center be used temporarily. The council also approved establishing a 15-member temporary committee, building on the existing nine-member modernization committee.
Mayor David Gronbach said this will allow the members to create subcommittees focused on different aspects of the next phases, such as fundraising and construction.
This is the third attempt to renovate the library, which has not been updated in more than 40 years. In 2003 and 2008, plans for the library failed largely due to cost estimates and the recession.
Officials are optimistic this newest plan will be successful. The project is expected to cost $7.5 million, a fraction of the $21 million proposal in 2008. Voters will be asked to approve the funding at a later date. Committee members and the architects also hope to secure grants to restore the library’s historic elements.
Residents filled the council room Monday wearing green tags in support of the library. Several also urged the council support the project during the public comment portion of the meeting, lauding the library as an asset that was in need of an update.
Councilman Walter Bayer agreed. “Talking about the library modernization is making me old,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for years. Remember when we lost the $500,000 grant because we sat on our hands? To me, any community that has a modern library is a jewel.”