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Falmouth gets 3 options, $5M estimate for new library

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Falmouth gets 3 options, $5M estimate for new library

FALMOUTH — Preliminary conceptual designs of an expanded and renovated Falmouth Memorial Library call for doubling the size, the purchase of adjacent property, a possible rerouting of Depot Road and the demolition of the historic Iverson House.

It could also cost about $5 million, Scott Simons, principal of Scott Simons Architects and lead architect for the project, said at a public presentation of the design plans Tuesday night.

Simons and his team of architects presented three design schemes at the meeting, based on information from library trustees and staff, town officials, members of the American Legion and others.

The schemes were meant to give residents an idea of what the library property layout could look like, Simons said, and can be altered based on public feedback.

All three include reconfiguration of parking lots, tearing down the original building – known as the Iverson House – and acquiring a half-acre lot adjacent to the library. They also recommend more than doubling the library's size to about 22,000 square feet.

The plans hinge on the town's acquisition of a property owned by the Kowalski family, which will allow for more parking space and possible future expansion.

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, Town Council Vice Chairwoman Karen Farber said.

The first scheme presented perhaps the most dramatic alteration. It connects Depot Road to Lunt Road by repositioning it north of the existing library parking lot. The move would close the section of the street connecting Route 1 and the American Legion.

By closing that section of the street, it would allow safe, walkable access between the sport fields and the library. It would also stop the practice of drivers using the library lot as a shortcut to Lunt Road.

A buffer would separate the library parking lot and the new section of Depot Road.

Redirecting the road would add another estimated $350,000 to project, Simons said.

While many in the crowd of about 50 residents supported the idea, members of the American Legion, including Ralph Bonville, passionately opposed the plan.

"We are against it, at least most of us are," he said. "If you close the road, we're going to be dead."

The second scheme shares some of the design themes of the first, including a courtyard atrium in the center of the south end of the library.

Environmental consultant Gunnar Hubbard, a principal at Thorton Tomasetti, hired to work with Scott Simons, said the room would improve energy efficiency and allow the inside of the building to absorb more sunlight.

This scheme maintains the existing Depot Road, expands parking and adds a circular drop-off area.

The third design moves the library entrance to the south side of the building with two vehicle entrances on Lunt Road. It also proposes a more box-like design, compared to the other designs, and does not include an atrium. 

It, too, does not change Depot Road.

Residents aired concerns about how the upcoming Route 1 redesign will affect the project cost, as well as reservations about the demolition of the Iverson House.

In Simons' straw poll of the audience, a majority were in favor of moving Depot Road and keeping the entrance of the library on the north side of the building. Most also preferred the longer layout of the first two designs, as opposed to the more rectangular design of the third.

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

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

Library use in Falmouth has grown steadily in recent years: Lending of traditional books, audio books, e-books and other items has increased by more than 40 percent in the last decade, according to library figures.

Expanding programs have also pushed usable space to its limit, forcing staff to turn former storage rooms into offices.

Simons Architects, which was paid $20,000 to draw up the designs, will host another public meeting in November at Town Hall, where more complete and detailed drawings will be presented.

The library opened in 1952 and was originally a home. Another wing was added in 1995, doubling its size.

This article was corrected Sept. 12 to reflect the correct borrowing percentage increase at the library in the last decade.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.