Update on the Adams St. library plan: Double the size, double the possibilities

A rendering of the new Adams Street library. Image courtesy NADAAA

The Boston Public Library’s Adams Street branch would nearly double in size under the latest plans for a $18.3 million renovation project that was shared with members of the public at a community meeting a week ago Tuesday. The Adams Street site is one of three in Dorchester that will see new or updated facilities under Mayor Martin Walsh’s current budget.

The project, which has a projected completion date of winter 2020/2021, is at the midpoint of a planning process that has been ongoing for more than a year. A Community Advisory Committee (CAC) has been charged with gathering feedback from the public and sharing developments as the project gears up for a final look.

The library’s footprint would grow by about 6,700 square feet, according to Eamon Shelton, the BPL’s director of operations, for a total of 13,900 gross square feet.

“Because we are almost doubling the size,” he said, “we will have a more enhanced capacity in the community room, a larger children’s room, a larger adult area, and we will have a designated teen area which the library currently doesn’t have. We will also add a study room, an 8-to-12 person conference room, and a music practice room.” 

At the meeting, officials also discussed potential designs for the library’s façade, reviewing options for the outside community space and changes they had implemented since a session last May. One of these changes was a revision of the original building design to ensure the protection of an oak tree that attendees of the first public meeting asked to be kept rooted in place on the library grounds.

“People seemed generally pleased,” said Shelton, who added that some questions arose about the construction job’s impact to the neighborhood and the nearby Thomas J. Kenny School. The city intends to rebuild the facility to LEED silver specifications, he said. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and silver status is second along a continuum of quality rating that runs from certified to silver to gold to platinum). Ideas for increasing the sustainability of the development are already under way, including a plan to retain the storm water generated on the site.

 “In certain projects – or in typical projects – building or owners are required to keep all of the rainwater on site or collect it in large tanks on the site,” Shelton said. “We’ve introduced the concept where we basically have rain gardens. So instead of having a tank, there’s actually natural growth garden areas where the water will flow and eventually feed those areas.”

Grace Hebard, a nearby resident and a member of the Friends of the Adams Street Branch Library, noted at the meeting that the community was “very happy to see the new proposal. The initial plans that they had made at the previous meeting … it wasn’t really what we had hoped for,” she said. “Everybody strongly felt that a reading garden should be part of the new library. And although the initial plans did have some sort of outdoor space, it didn’t have what we considered the reading garden, and there was a large tree that we wanted to maintain, to keep on the property.

“So,” she added, “we felt very happy that the architects and the city came back with a proposal that … made those changes. I felt that they were really listening to the community. …They were meeting our requests the best they could and compromising on them in a reasonable way.”

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The library branch is a polling location, and with construction expected to run through 2020, a presidential election year, the city said it’s ready to address its electoral function as the balloting grows near.

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