Three preliminary options for the renovation of the Jamaica Plain Branch of the Boston Public Library (BPL) would add much-needed space to the building, while also sealing the current main entrance.
The options were presented during a Jan. 10 community meeting. Which option is chosen will be heavily influenced by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) and Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC). No budget has been announced for the project, but BPL plans to request funds from the City in March, as the Gazette previously reported.
The JP Branch, located at 12 Sedgwick St. next to Curtis Hall, was built in 1911, the first neighborhood branch building in the BPL system. While it has been renovated in that time, the building remains largely unchanged from its original state. It is notably not accessible to users with mobility issues, as has been nationally required since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.
A nearly complete renovation plan was shelved by BPL in 2006. During that process, MHC said the building was “worthy of preservation,” as the Gazette previously reported. It is unclear if the building has an official status as a historical building.
Two options for the renovation would build an approximately 700-square-foot addition attached to the side of the building facing South Street. A third option would build more space to the side facing Curtis Hall.
In all three options, the main entrance would be transferred from Sedgwick Street to the current side entrance on South Street, making it handicapped accessible. The Sedgwick Street entrance would be sealed, although it is too early in the process to know how exactly that would be done.
There appeared unanimous consensus of the about 20 attendees for the addition on the South Street side, and some even voiced support for creating an option that included the added space of all three options. Some attendees pointed out that the current building suffers from a lack of space.
“Why not combine them if space is the issue?” said Jamaica Plain resident Gail Curley.
Jim McQueen, project manager for the City’s Property & Construction Management Department, said to keep in mind that the MHC and BLC will have to approve any plan and that they might be hesitant to approve one that significantly alters the building, such as adding an addition on the South Street side.
They will “hold our feet to the fire to make sure a good, quality piece of work is done,” McQueen had said earlier in the meeting.
McQueen said that although the two organizations would not pass judgment until a final plan is submitted, project officials will meet “early and often” with them to try and gauge which way they are leaning.
Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library co-chair Don Haber said, “We want you to impress upon [MHC and BLC] that is the desire of the community,” speaking of having maximum space from the renovation.
There was also discussion on the inadequacy of the multi-purpose room in the basement. When the talk centered on the layout of the building, most attendees felt the teen room should go on the mezzanine, while the location of the children and adult rooms was left unresolved.
BPL will hold another meeting Feb. 7 as it moves to clarify goals and priorities of the project.