Falmouth library redesign gets final tweaks

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FALMOUTH — A proposed expansion of Falmouth Memorial Library has diminished in size, but not by much.

At a public forum Oct. 30, Portland architect Scott Simons unveiled a fourth conceptual drawing of the library, which incorporated elements of three previous drawings that were discussed at a forum in September.

The new concept calls for 73 percent growth from the existing size; previous designs called for twice as much floor space.

About 50 people attended the two-hour meeting, which featured presentations by library board members, staff and architects, as well as questions from the audience. The public feedback was largely positive.

It was also the final public forum on the proposed expansion. Next, the library board will present the plan to the Town Council at its Nov. 13 meeting, according to library board member Marsha Clark.

Simons said the latest plan calls for a larger, reconfigured parking lot, a larger space for teenage patrons, and other minor adjustments. The plan also retains plans for demolition of the Iverson House, and the purchase of an adjacent property, but scuttles a controversial proposal to re-route Depot Road.

The revamped library would include 11,320 square feet of new construction and 7,280 square feet of renovated, existing space for a total of 18,600 square feet.

Currently, the library is 10,741 square feet.

Simons said residents at the September meeting expressed “strong attachment” to the library’s Iverson House, but the former residential property doesn’t function well as a library, plus it’s deteriorating, expensive to heat and doesn’t meet modern codes. Instead, an atrium would be built on the footprint of the house.

Planners originally considered moving the Iverson House, but no one expressed interest in taking it, Iverson added.

Earlier plans called for 22,000 square feet, but Simons said the new, 18,600-square-foot design would still accommodate projected growth in 15 years. Also, the one-story building could later be expanded to include a 10,000-square foot, U-shaped second floor.

The latest concept also calls for a “dramatically expanded” space for teenage library users, that is partitioned away from the rest of the facility to create the illusion of “a library within a library.”

The new facility would be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, Simons said. Energy costs for the existing facility amount to $26,000 a year, but the new building, despite being 73 percent larger could potentially reduce annual costs by eliminating drafts, increasing insulation and employing more natural light.

The cost breakdown for the estimated $5 million project is about $3.2 million for the new construction and $320,000 to renovate existing space (based on rate estimates of $290 per square foot for energy efficient construction and materials, plus $45 per square foot renovations).

Furnishings and equipment is estimated at $500,000. Permits, architectural engineering, design fees and other “soft costs” are estimated at $580,000.

The purchase of the adjacent land, known as the Kowalski Property, is estimated at $315,000. The town has an agreement with the family that they will not sell the property to anyone else, but the arrangement has an expiration date of April 2014.

Demolition fees for the Iverson House are unknown, Clark said.

Library use has increased 200 percent in Falmouth over the past 18 years since the last major expansion, according to library Director Andi Jackson-Darling, who began the forum with a short presentation.

On average, every Falmouth resident checks out 16 library items per year – the highest average in the state and higher than the six largest municipalities, which include Portland and Bangor, she said.

Simons said library usage is expanding elsewhere despite the digital age. The phones in people’s pockets may provide access to more information than any library could possibly provide, he said, but the libraries are still critical to communities’ needs.

“People want to gather in the library,” he said. “Every community across the country is experiencing the same thing.”

While precise cost estimates for the project will not be available until later in the design process, library Vice President Amy Kuhn has said money will likely be generated through a mix of fundraising and collaboration with the town.

The library board will have the final say on the design, although the Town Council, and possibly voters, may have to approve public funding for the project.

Unlike other towns, the Falmouth Memorial Library is a private nonprofit, not an entity of the town. Still, about 75 percent of the library’s budget is taxpayer funded.

The library opened in 1952 and was originally a home. A $2.25 million wing was added in 1995, doubling its size.

If approved, the project could begin as early as 2015.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

Sidebar Elements

Amy Kuhn, vice president of the Falmouth Memorial Library Board, with a conceptual drawing of a proposed expansion of the library during a presentation on Oct. 30.

A conceptual drawing of a proposed expansion of Falmouth Memorial Library by Scott Simons Architects. The drawing, dubbed Scheme D, combines elements of three previous drawings that were discussed during a meeting in September.