Posted: January 17th, 2008 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: DC Shaw Neighborhood, District of Columbia, Libraries, MLK Memorial Library, Watha T. Daniel Library | 2 Comments »
After years of inaction, the process of re-constructing the D.C. Public Library’s Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Branch seems on-track. A new temporary library hums with activity, demolition of the old building well underway, and a meeting scheduled later this month to reveal a preliminary design for the new building.
Last October, a well-equipped temporary library opened on the grounds of Shaw Junior High roughly two years since the old Watha T. Daniel branch closed. The temporary library is equipped with a children’s section, periodicals, a number of public computers, and variety of books, and a visit this afternoon found a number of people reading, browsing the stacks, and surfing the web.
Library officials have planned a community meeting to unveil the preliminary design for the new library, to be held on Wednesday, January 30th at the interim library from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
For the last several weeks construction crews have begun the painstaking task of the careful demolition of the brutalist 1960s structure, revealed in the photos below to be heavily reinforced concrete.
While I haven’t visited recently, during a visit last August I found the system’s long-beleaguered Martin Luther King Memorial Library to be in the best shape I’ve ever seen it. All four elevators were in operation, which hadn’t happened in so long the Washington Post saw fit to report the news. The lobby was so clean and well-lit it reminded me of the historic photos I’d found from when the building just opened, perhaps fitting as the building was declared a historic landmark by the city last July.
> DCPL Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library Reconstruction Page
> Previous library posts
Posted: November 7th, 2007 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: DC Shaw Neighborhood, District of Columbia, Watha T. Daniel Library | 2 Comments »
As noted by a visitor in a recent comment, at long last a fully equipped temporary Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library has opened at 945 Rhode Island Avenue next to the Shaw Junior High School.
The grand opening is next Wednesday, November 14th from 4 to 5:30 p.m., to be followed by a “Hopes and Dreams” meeting to “solicit community input about the service priorities desired in the soon to be constructed Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library” that will take the place of the old library shown here. For more information contact Archie Williams at archie.williams at dc.gov.
Posted: July 17th, 2007 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: DC Shaw Neighborhood, District of Columbia, Libraries, Watha T. Daniel Library | 3 Comments »
UPDATE: This meeting has been canceled. If, like me, you received a post card about it in the mail please disregard it.
Next week the D.C. Public Library will start the first round of public meetings connected to the redesign of three neighborhood libraries: the Benning Neighborhood Library, Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library, and Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library.
Although it is not currently on the library website, the community listening meeting for the Shaw library will be next Monday, July 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the recently opened Interim Library, located at 925 Rhode Island Ave. NW in front of Shaw Jr. High School.
The meeting in Benning will be on Tuesday, July 31, and the meeting in Tenley will be Wednesday, August 1.
> DCPL: Capital Projects, Community Listening Meetings
> Federation of Friends of the DC Public Library
Posted: March 15th, 2007 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: DC Shaw Neighborhood, District of Columbia, Housing, Libraries, Urban Development, Watha T. Daniel Library | 9 Comments »
Could the site of the closed Watha T. Daniel library in Shaw become home to not only to a new library, but also housing and perhaps even a small store?
That’s what Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, is suggesting in a provocative proposal being circulated in the community, that I have published below.
The idea is not as far-fetched as it might seem. Although composed of barely a quarter of an acre of land, the library site is located immediately adjacent two large Section 8 subsidized apartment buildings and across the street from an exit to the Shaw Metro station. (The canopy can be seen to the far left in the photo above.) A dense development would fit nicely in the existing context, and take advantage of the proximity both to Metro and 7th Street buses, which will soon include the new Metro Extra. As Cheryl suggests, a creative re-use of the building could provide not only library and retail services but also additional housing and safety to the neighborhood. Furthermore, the parcel is already zoned R-5-D, a category designed to include both residential buildings and “institutional and semi-public buildings that would be compatible with the adjoining residential uses.”
A quick web search turned up an article about the project in Portland, Oregon Cheryl mentions, where mixed-use development combines a library, restaurant, and 47 apartments — 19 of which are reserved for households below the area’s median income. Although the situation here in Shaw may have been created by poor planning by library officials, the closed library presents a tremendous opportunity for a creative redevelopment.
Watha T. Daniel Library redevelopment proposal for a mixed use facility
By Cheryl Cort
Our closest (closed) library is the Watha T Daniel library at the 8th & R St. entrance of the Shaw Metro station. It feels or is unsafe at night; it’s a depressing place by day due to poor land uses and urban design.
The Mayor has promised to rebuild or reopen the 4 closed libraries as soon as possible.
Given the problems with crime and poor land uses around the Watha T. Daniel Library and the adjacent Shaw Metro station, a mixed use library at this site with a pedestrian-friendly design is particularly important for creating a safer environment for the community, library patrons and Metro riders. To create a safer and more inviting street environment and library, I propose reconstructing a new library with affordable housing units above, and possibly a small retail space at the ground level. This proposal is similar to the new branch library in Portland Oregon which doubled library space, added a café and 40 units of housing – 19 of which are affordable.
Transportation: The Watha T. Daniel site is tight but located next to a Metro station, close to grocery stores, shops, services & downtown. In order to provide added public benefits, such as affordable housing on top of a new library, I propose that the mixed building be developed with no automobile parking. Instead, residents can be offered a valuable package of carsharing memberships & discounted usage, transit passes, bicycles and bicycle parking (ShawEco Village could provide the bicycles). The transportation benefits package could equal the cost of renting a parking space in such a location – about $150 per month. Two to four on-street carsharing vehicles could be parked adjacent to the new library building. Access to residential parking permits could be limited to a small number in order to address adjacent neighbor concerns about more competition for $15/year residential public street parking.
Until now, the opportunity to leverage the value of the library sites through redevelopment to provide greater public benefits has been largely overlooked. These public benefits include: expanded library space, public meeting and study spaces, enhanced technology, synergistic development potential with adjacent schools/public facilities, and complementary private uses such as a café and affordable housing that could offer greater safety and vibrancy to the library as a center of civic life.
I understand that some people have been skeptical of the opportunity to leverage added public benefits from a public-private venture for the library. The idea of mixed use libraries to maximize complementary public benefits is not new. The Montgomery County Library in Rockville, Maryland, is finishing a ground floor café that marks the prominent corner of the street and public plaza that leads to the main entrance of the new main library for the County. Library agencies all over the country are building mixed use, complementary facilities to leverage the opportunity to expand library space and offer other public benefits such as affordable housing and activities to reinforce the vitality and safety of public realm through cafes and other small-scale retail. This is the kind of mix of uses that would great benefit a new Watha T. Daniel Library.
I propose that we adopt a resolution asking for the city to look into a public-private partnership to increase the library space, upgrade facilities and add complementary uses such as a café and affordable housing.
Posted: June 22nd, 2006 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: District of Columbia, Public Policy, Urban Development, Watha T. Daniel Library | 2 Comments »
I’ve been thinking about libraries lately. The DC Public Library‘s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, to be specific. There’s been a debate raging over the library’s future: some want the 1972 Mies van der Rohe structure renovated and maintained as the city’s main library. Others, including the mayor, his blue-ribbon library task force, and the library’s staff, think a better use of city money would be to build a new structure a few blocks away on the old convention center site.
At first I thought one option not discussed was privatization. A possible scenario might look like this: the city would move the public library to a new site, and a private organization would take over the Mies building. Freed from the shackles of public oversight they’d be free to slash employee pay, court lucrative corporate deals, even bar the homeless. (The DC Charter Library: Brought To You By Dell) The architecture buffs would be happy and probably more comfortable in a semi-private, sanitary library than the real thing anyway. (I’ve been wondering how many of the Mies library’s defenders use the building regularly, anyhow.)
Giddy with the excitement of any good liberal indulging his libertarian side and treading on verboten political territory, I began googling for private libraries. It turns out whomever is behind the blog of the Nader group DC Library Renaissance Project was having similar fears last February when people first talked about the controversial idea of cashing in on city real estate to fund capital improvements on schools and libraries. Searching further found an interesting article from 1996 that made a convincing case the era of the modern library was over … doomed by the proliferation of information technology and the fragmentation of contemporary society.
Upon further reflection the idea seemed to unravel. Who’d go to this new institution? How would it be supported? I decided to IM a friend from Ann Arbor Edward Vielmetti, who works for the University of Michigan School of Information and authors the blog SuperPatron. Ed thinks we’ve come a long way since 1972 and pointed out new libraries have taken on a social function, centered on meeting spaces and computing resources. He noted that the Post story I sent him described the homeless using the library, and pointed me to a Wired article about how crucial the public institutions can be for this population. However, he didn’t seem to think the public library was obsolete, suggesting the Queens Library as one institution that has adapted well to the changing needs of serving a radically diverse community in the information age.
I was finding that my short-lived dreams of privatization were evaporating quickly, just like the high hopes of the advocates for the semi-private “charter” schools in DC. I’m sympathetic to the preservationists, but within limits. I find little of value in the solid cinder block stairwells and drab hallway spaces of the Mies design. Why not sell the property to a developer but just require they keep the facade? Let them gut the building — asbestos, broken elevators, fetid bathrooms and all — and let the building be reborn, perhaps with upper stories discreetly set back from the old roof line. The city’s reactionary preservationists could sit outside the old library, sipping cappuccino and admiring the beauty of the Mies design, while the rest of us attend public events, conduct computer research, and check out books in an elegant new edifice three blocks away.
Note: The photo is of my neighborhood library, the Watha T. Daniel branch. It closed with three other branches in 2004, and only recently has the library announced plans to install modular libraries (PDF) until the new branches are designed and built.
Posted: June 14th, 2006 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: DC Shaw Neighborhood, Libraries, Urban Development, Watha T. Daniel Library | Comments Off
I was pleased to see my post about the redevelopment of the DC convention center received links from DCist and DCBlogs. As I expected it appears I am thoroughly out of the loop on the matter, however, and the developers held two public meetings in the past year to solicit public feedback on the redevelopment plan and issued formal master plan this past April. Details about all of this are on their website www.oldconventioncenter.com, which I somehow didn’t find in my research for the previous post. The final plan differs slightly from the hard-to-make-out sketch I posted yesterday. I’ll withhold my comments about the plan until I get a better look at them, but the real lesson here for DC government is to start planning ahead – this process could have been started much earlier, minimizing the city’s lost tax dollars while the land sits (nearly) empty.
The DC public libraries made a similar mistake when they closed four branch locations in 2004 (including my neighborhood library) and canceled the contract for their re-construction in order to fit them into the mayor’s blue-ribbon task force’s central-library oriented recommendations. Two years later the branches are still closed and there are no concrete plans for their re-opening. Unlike the convention center redevelopment, this case isn’t about lost tax revenue but fairness: city residents have been deprived access to a vital community resource. It’s simply an irresponsible and way to govern.
Posted: March 19th, 2006 | Author: Rob Goodspeed | Filed under: Books, DC Shaw Neighborhood, District of Columbia, Justice, Libraries, Watha T. Daniel Library | 1 Comment »
I just uploaded a set of photos of my neighborhood branch of the D.C. Public Library. The library has been closed since 2004 and no plan exists for its re-construction. It was closed with two other neighborhood plans and slated for demolition and re-construction, but the D.C. Board of Public Library Trustees canceled the construction contract last fall, deciding the plans did not fit with the overall vision for the library system a task force had outlined. At a meeting last November officials told neighborhood residents the branch might not open until 2008. Temporary storefront locations to serve the three neighborhoods now without branches have also not opened, despite assurances in October the library was moving quickly to scout out locations.