Patio, glass addition in JP Library plan

February 15, 2013
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(Illustration Courtesy BPL) The proposed “Plan A” renovated ground level, with added “laptop lounge” computer room and patio.

A proposed renovation plan for the Jamaica Plain Branch of the Boston Public Library (BPL) would create a new glass-encased computer room, a patio and a new main entrance, all of which would face South Street.

The proposed plan and its backup are only studies to guide the renovation’s future design process. They were presented to library staff, Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library members and other community members at a Feb. 7 meeting held at the 12 Sedgwick St. branch,

The preferred “Plan A” would create a new computing area and patio on the building’s South Street facade and a new entranceway, restrooms and staircase between the existing building and Curtis Hall. The “laptop lounge” area would be mostly glass, the project architects said. It would preserve the existing exterior wall and its windows as part of the new interior.

The computer room addition would add 700 square feet to the small building, a long-time request of library staff and Friends members. A small patio would add additional leisure reading space, though it has not yet been decided if the patio would be open to the elements or be partially or completely enclosed for protection.

An addition between the library and Curtis Hall would add a new main entrance along with new facilities, elevator and stairway. The new entrance would include a new clear canopy that would lead to a small vestibule and gallery.

Access to the Sedgwick Street entrance is expected to be closed, but the outside of the building would not be altered for historic preservation reasons. It is unclear whether the building’s address would change.

The project architects and BPL have been consulting with the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s (MHC), as the building is over 100 years old. Many of the project’s proposed details are aimed at protecting the building’s historical significance, including not altering the external Sedgwick Street entrance, maintaining the existing fireplace and creating the addition mostly out of glass to protect the current external walls.

According to BPL Major Projects Program Manager Eamon Shelton, if Plan A does not get MHC approval, “Plan B” would be chosen. That plan would limit additions to a new entrance and adjacent facilities—the same as proposed in Plan A—but there would be no new computer room. The external patio would be enlarged to occupy that area instead.

“Plan A,” preferred by both BPL staff and community members, has a “very good” likelihood of being chosen, Shelton added.

Both plans would reopen the mezzanine floor to the public as a new teen-oriented room and two smaller rooms for crafts or meetings.

Plan A proposes dismantling the stage in the lower-level meeting room and replacing it with a “trundle” stage that can be packed away while not in use. “Plan B” would not alter the lower-level meeting room.

Both plans would also add a small kitchenette to the lower-level conference room.

According to BPL Chief of Communications Gina Perille, upcoming cost estimates for the two plans will be created soon, so that BPL can make a funding request to the City for the next fiscal year.

“It’ll be up to us to get this funded” by letting elected officials know of community support, Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library co-chair Gretchen Grozier said at the meeting.

The renovation has already been placed in BPL’s capital budget, but it is up to the City to allocate funds to complete projects. No more community meetings are expected until the formal design process starts, after funds have been allocated.

The Mayor’s Office representative for JP, Jullieanne Doherty, was present.

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