On Tuesday, March 1, the Walker Library Community Advisory Committee (CAC) met with Hennepin County staff and the project’s architect, Vincent James Associates Architects (VJAA) to go over the pre-design findings for building a new Walker Library. The new Walker Library will replace the current library on the northwest corner of Lagoon Avenue and Hennepin Avenue. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2012.
As a part of the pre-design process, VJAA looked at how potential existing infrastructure at the library could be utilized in a new library. They concluded that of the existing library, the exterior walls should be able to be reused as a soil retention system, which will reduce demolition and earthwork costs for the new library. An added benefit is that less noise will be created since they won’t have to sheet pile. The existing floors do not seem to be reusable for underground parking or storage, so they would go.
In looking at how the future 15,000 to 20,000 square foot building could be built on the 20,545 square foot site, VJAA believe that the orientation to pursue would be a large single level library that has a two-story presence (think a large cubic space with one level) with one level of underground parking (more on that soon).
In analyzing the site, VJAA learned that there is a non-vacated alley between the library and apartments to the west. The alley right now is really a strip of grass and trees and utility poles. So one option is to vacate the alley and provide half the land to the library and the other half to the apartment buildings. This would allow easier conformance with zoning codes about how far various components of the building must be set back off of the property line.
VJAA conducted a zoning analysis, which determined that if they accepted the site as is and followed the zoning ordinances without seeking variances, the building would have a footprint of 14,800 square feet and have 2,000 additional square feet in the basement for mechanical equipment and such. The building would also require a strange carve out in the northeast corner due to setback requirements. If the alley is vacated and the northeast corner set backs were removed, the building may have a footprint closer to 15,500 square feet. One item that VJAA mentioned is that they may want to set the building back up to 20 feet from the Hennepin sidewalk to address some grade issues as well as create a plaza space.
The main doors to the building haven’t been determined and will be informed in part by programming needs within the library and grades. VJAA referenced that the CAC and others had talked a lot about how to better connect with the north side of the site, so one option is to locate the doors to the library there. However, they also recognized that there is a desire to ensure a strong connection towards Lagoon. One option would be to locate the doors in the middle of the Hennepin side and utilize a front plaza to help draw people in from both sides. The largest constraint it sounds is the grade change at the site, with a 4.5′ drop from north to south and a 2.5′ drop from east to west. As a result, the building’s floor level inside will be higher or lower than the sidewalk at some point around the building.
Parking / Access
VJAA is proposing a single entry drive lane from Lagoon Avenue at the west side of the site that runs north to exit on to the Mall, which would provide access to the underground parking garage. They preferred this over a two-way in-and-out onto Lagoon because of its negative impacts on the square footage of the available first floor for the library as well as for easier waste hauling, as the garage would otherwise have to higher clearance height and likely would necessitate garbage and recycling trucks to back out over the sidewalk and onto Lagoon.
Parking at the site will be difficult and costly to construct because the site’s size creates inefficient floor plates. VJAA and Hennepin County polled the library patrons and employees last fall to understand how people come to the library. After factoring that in along with the projected ways that people will reach the library, they concluded that they will want to have approximately 27 stalls of parking with 23 of them for patrons and the others for staff. The intent, though nothing is finalized, is to have the parking dedicated to library patrons but that they’ll use an automated pay system to accomplish that by somehow offering a discount or validation type of service for those using the service.
Significantly more bike parking would be provided.
VJAA said that the focus of the new library’s sustainability efforts would be on value and efficiency, and that they will use more passive strategies than expensive high-tech solutions. For example, they will use passive solar to try and daylight the library to reduce the amount of lighting required to operate as opposed to installing a solar power farm.
So their preliminary thoughts included:
- use local, renewable and recycled materials
- under-floor air distribution
- additional insulation in the building envelope and good glazing (glass)
- below grade cistern for storm water
- flexible space so that the library can adapt to future needs
- reuse existing structure, where possible
- advanced lighting (I’m assuming that means dimmers, stepped lighting, etc)
- high efficiency HVAC
VJAA will share with the CAC some preliminary designs in May and there will be some sort of public engagement around that time as well.