Saturday, December 8, 2012

A New Home for the Library

On Friday evening, Vincent Benic, principal of Vincent Benic Architect LLC, presented the schematic design for the Hudson Armorysoon to be renamed the Galvan Community Learning Center. There are three parts to the Galvan Community Learning Center: the Hudson Area Library, the "flagship of the building," which will occupy the drill shed and mezzanine; the Community Wing, which will occupy the "officers' hall"the part of the building facing North Fifth Street; and the Learning Wing, which will be housed in a new three-story building to be constructed on the Short Street side of the building, where a 1950s garage now stands. 

The design for the library space will be an "open floor plan," with tall bookcases around the walls and shorter bookcases in the center. There will also be "spatial and acoustic separation" between areas used for different purposesfor example, the children's library and a reading room meant for adults. Benic talked enthusiastically about the "lattice work of the trusses" that support the ceiling in the drill shed and spoke of the intent to "express the entire structure" and "minimize the impact on historic spaces." He said the design for the library would have a "living room feeling" achieved by the "selective use of woodwork and historic materials." Benic showed this picture of the Fort Hamilton Library, a Carnegie Library that his firm renovated and expanded, to give an idea of what the interior of the new library might look like.

The drill shed and mezzanine together are 10,800 square feet, which is less than what had been determined to be the library's space needs. The solution to the problem is a community room, with kitchen facilities and restrooms, in the part of the building designated as the Community Wing. The room can be used by the library, but it will also be used for community functions unrelated to the library.

Photo by Scott Baldinger
The entrance to the library will be along the wall that faces State Street. The plan is to create a "plaza" around the new entrancea stone surface, shade trees, benches, chairs and tables, bluestone "seating steps" and grass where people can sit and read. There's also a plan for the entrance to the library to be enhanced with a "portico of classical design" constructed of materials similar to the brick and stone of the Romanesque armory building.

The History Room, perhaps the library's most valued collection, will be housed on the two floors in the large turret at the southwest corner of the Armory building. A classroom and the library administrative office, both walled in glass, will be located on the mezzanine.

With the exception of the community room, which will be shared by the library, the spaces in the Community Wing are, in the present plan, designated as "community rental space," intended to be leased by local not-for-profits. No specific plans for the use of the proposed Education Wing have been developed, although its purpose was described as providing "support to the library's main function." The possibility that a clinic might to located there was mentioned. The design for the facade of the building, which will face Short Street includes dormers, a new turret, and a mansard roof to screen the "very noisy" rooftop HVAC units which will service both the existing building and the new building. The new building will include an elevator that will access the mezzanine in the drill shed as well as the three floors of the new building. A new stairway and a second elevator will be installed in the Community Wing.

When asked about a timeline for the project, Benic said that he hopes to get a go-ahead from the library board in the next week or so to begin design development. During this phase, the design will be refined and materials will be selected. He expects design development will take two to three months and anticipates a presentation of the final plans in March. The next phase is developing the contract documents, which is expected to take three to four months. Benic predicted that the project would go out for bid in September. Construction is expected to take twelve months. The project will require site plan review by the Planning Commission, and, since the building is in a locally designated historic district, the demolition and the proposed new addition will require a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission. These reviews are expected to begin this month. 

The library had announced that "representatives of our development partner, The Galvan Foundation" would attend, and they did. Present at the meeting were Daniel Kent, the new executive director for the foundation; Rick Scalera, "special adviser" to the foundation; and Henry van Ameringen, the Van of Galvan. Eric Galloway, however, was not at the meeting.

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