News

Menlo Park: Should new library include housing?

Questions remain over new library's location and features

Where to put a new main library and whether it should include housing were two questions discussed but not resolved at a public meeting held Monday, Dec. 4, at the Menlo Park Library.

Straw polls during the meeting were split, and the majority of the roughly 25 attendees said they felt they needed more information before making a decision.

The city of Menlo Park is expediting the process to build a new main library after receiving an offer by developer and philanthropist John Arrillaga to cover the construction costs of a new library after the first $20 million.

A "space needs" study completed earlier this year found that the community was interested in more public meeting spaces, study rooms, a dedicated area for teens and a larger children's area than the current library offers, according to Christopher Noll, an architect at Berkeley-based consulting firm Noll & Tam, which oversees a number of regional library construction projects.

There have been two options proposed for where to put the new main library at the Civic Center. One is the current site at Alma Street and Ravenswood Avenue. The other is closer to Laurel Street, and could overtake the footprint of where the council chambers and Children's Development Center are now.

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If that site were selected, the new structure might include a large public meeting room that could double as the new council chambers. The Children's Development Center would likely have to find somewhere else to operate, according to Library Director Susan Holmer.

One advantage to the Laurel Street location is that the city would not have to set up a temporary facility during construction, which could cost roughly between $1 and $2 million, according to Mr. Noll.

A major unknown factor is how a grade separation at the Caltrain/Ravenswood crossing would affect such a project. If Ravenswood Avenue were to run beneath the Caltrain tracks, then vehicle access to Alma Street could be eliminated. Another option, to elevate the rail line and lower the roads at multiple rail crossings, would not cut off Alma Street access.

The council hasn't decided whether to pursue either option, or something else.

According to Ms. Holmer, the new library would not have a space for the Menlo Park Historical Association, which currently occupies a small room in the library's basement. Dedicated space for the group was not evaluated during the library's space needs study, she said.

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Housing?

Another option under consideration is to add affordable housing above the library. Consultant Sean Kennedy of the Berkeley-based architectural firm, Studio Skaggs Kennedy, presented examples of developments in Chicago and Portland that have ground-floor libraries and housing on top.

Several attendees spoke in favor of adding affordable apartments, saying that the location is a prime one because the city already owns the land and it is near downtown and the Menlo Park Caltrain station, which will limit the need for residents to drive.

Others said they didn't support the concept for traffic-related reasons, or because tenants might remain there even if ineligible for affordable housing.

Mr. Noll said his firm has been tapped to conduct the public outreach for this process, and develop a rough layout and "shape" for the building, but that the ultimate design and construction will likely be done by donor John Arrillaga's development company.

More public meetings are scheduled for Jan. 17 and Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

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Menlo Park: Should new library include housing?

Questions remain over new library's location and features

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 11:31 pm

Where to put a new main library and whether it should include housing were two questions discussed but not resolved at a public meeting held Monday, Dec. 4, at the Menlo Park Library.

Straw polls during the meeting were split, and the majority of the roughly 25 attendees said they felt they needed more information before making a decision.

The city of Menlo Park is expediting the process to build a new main library after receiving an offer by developer and philanthropist John Arrillaga to cover the construction costs of a new library after the first $20 million.

A "space needs" study completed earlier this year found that the community was interested in more public meeting spaces, study rooms, a dedicated area for teens and a larger children's area than the current library offers, according to Christopher Noll, an architect at Berkeley-based consulting firm Noll & Tam, which oversees a number of regional library construction projects.

There have been two options proposed for where to put the new main library at the Civic Center. One is the current site at Alma Street and Ravenswood Avenue. The other is closer to Laurel Street, and could overtake the footprint of where the council chambers and Children's Development Center are now.

If that site were selected, the new structure might include a large public meeting room that could double as the new council chambers. The Children's Development Center would likely have to find somewhere else to operate, according to Library Director Susan Holmer.

One advantage to the Laurel Street location is that the city would not have to set up a temporary facility during construction, which could cost roughly between $1 and $2 million, according to Mr. Noll.

A major unknown factor is how a grade separation at the Caltrain/Ravenswood crossing would affect such a project. If Ravenswood Avenue were to run beneath the Caltrain tracks, then vehicle access to Alma Street could be eliminated. Another option, to elevate the rail line and lower the roads at multiple rail crossings, would not cut off Alma Street access.

The council hasn't decided whether to pursue either option, or something else.

According to Ms. Holmer, the new library would not have a space for the Menlo Park Historical Association, which currently occupies a small room in the library's basement. Dedicated space for the group was not evaluated during the library's space needs study, she said.

Housing?

Another option under consideration is to add affordable housing above the library. Consultant Sean Kennedy of the Berkeley-based architectural firm, Studio Skaggs Kennedy, presented examples of developments in Chicago and Portland that have ground-floor libraries and housing on top.

Several attendees spoke in favor of adding affordable apartments, saying that the location is a prime one because the city already owns the land and it is near downtown and the Menlo Park Caltrain station, which will limit the need for residents to drive.

Others said they didn't support the concept for traffic-related reasons, or because tenants might remain there even if ineligible for affordable housing.

Mr. Noll said his firm has been tapped to conduct the public outreach for this process, and develop a rough layout and "shape" for the building, but that the ultimate design and construction will likely be done by donor John Arrillaga's development company.

More public meetings are scheduled for Jan. 17 and Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

-

Comments

whstever
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2017 at 9:33 am
whstever, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

Before going any further let's put the "new" main library idea to a vote of the city's residents. This is too important an issue to leave to our disfunctional council.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 12, 2017 at 9:51 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 12, 2017 at 9:51 am

Wasting money on a new main library that nobody needs is a terrible idea from every angle.


Reader
Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 12, 2017 at 12:50 pm
Reader, Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 12, 2017 at 12:50 pm

So, not just a new library but a new council chambers and a new child care center. But, hey, it's ok because we'd save $1mm on a temporary facility. And the thorough needs study somehow managed to overlook the only current non-library occupant of the building, the historical society, which has been downstairs approximately forever.

Did the residents who wanted more meeting space know that the recreation building, with plenty of meeting rooms, is a few steps from the library?

And sure, let's add housing, because a few more units will make a significant dent in the housing shortage, and there's no possible downside with using a public amenity in this manner. Why not create even more housing by renting out city offices at night? I'm sure you could fit at least 100 homeless people with sleeping bags into that space, and the additional cost would be negligible.

Has Arrillaga's wealth so besotted our city's decision makers that they have essentially lost all reason? Looks that way.


sjtaffee
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:08 pm
sjtaffee, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:08 pm

I have previously expressed my hesitancy about the need for a new main library and my position remains unchanged.

Whenever the City creates new buildings I am intrigued by the idea of a housing component. Affordable housing is an idea worth further consideration. I would like to add to the housing discussion the idea of Single Room Occupancies (SROs) for certain emergency workers who live outside of the area: police, fire, ambulance. This might provide a means for creating additional resiliency in our community in case of a catastrophic disaster and offer more flexibility in work shift hours. Just a thought.

steve taffee


henry fox
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm
henry fox, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm

The "free" money from Arrillaga is going to cost menlo park $20million for the portion required by Arrillaga plus about $3million in development and cequa fees and additional start-up costs in personnel, plus $2million annually for interest on money borrowed to cover cost.

So yes. Let's go to the voters on this.


Nancy Borgeson
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:47 pm
Nancy Borgeson, Menlo Park: other
on Dec 12, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Why don't we just cut to the chase and put mini houses in Burgess Park and all the greeen areas around the city buildings? We could fit out the Rec Center with pull-down beds. Really.


Maje a plsn first
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2017 at 5:21 pm
Maje a plsn first, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2017 at 5:21 pm

The city campus desperately needs a long range plan. The library could be sited properly in that.

The city should not have housing onsite. That would resulr in new layers of staff of types the city doesn’t now have.

For housing, start negotiating with federal govt for land the usgs is going to vacate and xone it fro residential, not mixed use so housing gets built. The city could procure land and the. work with nonorofits like Habitat for Humanity to build housing


Julie R
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 12, 2017 at 11:22 pm
Julie R, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 12, 2017 at 11:22 pm

I can't believe this continues to barrel ahead with no real need. The existing library is a very nice building and never overcrowded. The collection is not great, I can't remember the last time I found a book I was looking for without having to wait for them to bring it from another town.


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