Highland Library reveals final concept for the proposed new library, vote will be March 17

The proposed Highland Public Library at Elting Place. (courtesy of Butler Rowland Mays)

The proposed Highland Public Library at Elting Place. (courtesy of Butler Rowland Mays)

The Highland Library Board of Trustees held a public meeting at Lloyd Town Hall on Thursday, February 5 to reveal the final conceptual design for the proposed new library in Highland. Lead architect on the project, Paul Mays of Butler Rowland Mays Architects, LLP, was in attendance to present the plan.

If voters on Tuesday, March 17 pass the $4.8 million bond issue proposal to build the library, the conceptual design will be the basis for the actual working blueprints, said Mays. At this stage, pre-referendum, the design can still change, but at this point it contains all of the key features and is a realistic reflection of what the finished library will look like and how it will function.


Assuming voters approve the plan, the process of converting the conceptual design into detailed construction documents will take approximately six months, said May. At that point, the plan may or may not also have to be approved by the state Education Department; the Highland Library is chartered as a school district library, but according to board president Joanne Loewenthal, the trustees have not yet determined whether their project will be held to the same standard of review by the state Education Department as that required of the current capital project in the Highland schools.

But even if the project doesn’t require further vetting from the state, a projected date of six months from the vote to create working documents and perhaps two months more to complete the construction bidding process doesn’t leave much time to break ground in 2015 before next winter sets in. It’s not likely that construction will begin before the spring thaw in 2016, but once the project is underway, said Mays, it should be completed within nine or ten months.


The design

The design for the new library is based on feedback from the community. Mays and library trustees held a series of interactive workshop sessions last year to solicit information from residents in Highland as to what they’d like to have in a new library. The architectural firm specializes in library design, with an extensive list of libraries statewide to their credit, but when they design a library, said Mays, it’s never a “cookie cutter” one-size-fits-all kind of plan. “One of the things we take pride in is the fact that a library we design in Warwick is different than one in Cornwall, or Monroe, or Walden or Gardiner or any of these other places we work in. Your input is something that we take very seriously.”

Residents in Highland expressed the desire for a library that will serve as a “hub” for the community, a place with ample parking, handicapped access, comfortable seating, an increase in the collections, a community meeting room, a good children’s area, a teen space, art gallery walls and display cases for art and local history, accommodation for technology and covered outdoor space.

The conceptual design includes all of those things. And the thoughtfully designed structure takes into account not only what the residents asked for in terms of features but how they will use those features. For example, the lobby and 72-seat community room and its kitchenette for coffee service can be locked off from the rest of the library, so that groups can meet there after library hours. A small conference room is available for groups that don’t need the space of the community room. The toddler and children’s area is located well within the structure, away from the quieter parts of the library, and has not only a space for stroller parking but a family restroom so that parents won’t have to make any mad dashes for the restrooms located in the front lobby. And the nearby teen room is private enough that its users will feel they have their own space while its “borrowed light” internal windows allow supervision by library staff. The entire library, in fact, has been designed with sight lines covering the entire interior so that no additional staff will be required to run the library despite its greater size than the current building.

Care in the details is evident outside the library, as well. The lot is wooded, with a natural screening of mature trees that will be left in place to shield the neighbors. Additional plantings will also serve that purpose and trees will be planted in islands in the 34-vehicle parking area, providing more visual unity with the mostly residential area. Lighting for the parking lot will be minimal and close to the ground to minimize light pollution spreading to the neighbors.

The multi-gabled building is designed to downplay its actual size, with the side view of the library visible from Elting Place resembling the residences nearby. Entrance to the property is controlled for vehicular and pedestrian safety, with handicapped parking located right against the building without any need for exiting drivers or passengers to walk in front of traffic. A drop-off zone is located against the building just past the handicapped parking for the same reason. Once past those areas and well into the site, the main entrance to the library will have a porch with chairs on it leading to the lobby.


The numbers

The 10,250-square-foot building proposed for 7 Elting Place is also designed so that as the community grows, so can the library, expanding back onto the 2.16-acre site without impacting the additional parking to be located at the back of the property. The size chosen for the new building was based on a population of 12,514 in the Highland Central School District (according to the 2010 census). Typically, said Mays, the square footage per person in a library falls somewhere between .8, .9, and 1.1. The existing library in Highland allows a tiny .23 per person, less than a quarter of what most libraries in a community of similar size provides. For point of comparison, Mays showed figures that indicate a per-person square footage of .69 in Saugerties and Fishkill, .93 in New Paltz and .94 in Gardiner. The proposed library for Highland will provide .82 square feet of space per person, placing Highland somewhere in the middle of those communities.

The projected cost estimate for the library remains the same as the figures stated by library attorneys in January: $4,855,433 million. Board president Loewenthal said the figures were arrived at in part in the effort to offer the community a project significantly lower in cost than the $6.8 million project library trustees proposed in 2010, rejected by voters then at a margin of less than 100 votes. Board trustees and administrators are hopeful that this time around, the lower cost and thorough vetting of the project during the planning phase will make the difference with voters.

The parcel of land intended for construction of the library is an empty lot at this time and in its current ownership by the Archdiocese of New York is already off the tax rolls, which has the benefit of keeping taxpayer impact stable. Its purchase for $125,000 is contingent upon passage of the bond on March 17. The location is two-tenths of a mile from the library’s current location at 30 Church Street, where the 100-year-old Highland Public Library has been housed since February of 1930. The structure has been deemed beyond economic feasibility to renovate. The building of a new library would allow the vacated structure on Church Street to be put up for sale, the profits from which would act as a source of revenue for the new library.

Taxpayer impact of the $4.8 million project will amount to $78 more per year for a homeowner with property valued at $250,000 based on a 25-year maturity schedule. Utility costs are expected to be lower in the new library due to more efficient insulation and energy savings. And costs could be reduced further down the road with the possibility of more grants and fundraising efforts on the horizon. Library trustees recently raised funds toward construction with a successful “Winter Wishes” raffle and are currently planning a fundraiser at the Nostrano Vineyards at 14 Gala Lane in Milton on Saturday, February 28. Tickets are on sale at the library.


When and where

A public hearing on the library bond will be held in the St. Augustine’s gymnasium on Monday, March 9 at 6 p.m. An informational meeting will be held at Vineyard Commons, 300 Vineyard Avenue on Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. The vote will be held on Tuesday, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day) in the St. Augustine’s community room at 35 Phillips Avenue, right across the street from the proposed site for the library. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. All registered voters residing in the Highland Central School District are eligible to vote, not just residents of the Town of Lloyd.

Library trustees are willing to come speak to any and all groups or organizations who’d like more details before the vote. To arrange for that, e-mail the board of trustees at librarybot12528@highlandlibrary.org or library director Julie Kelsall-Dempsey at jkelsall@highlandlibrary.org, or call the library at (845) 691-2275. Updates on the proposed project can be found on the library website at www.highlandlibrary.org or on Facebook.com under “Citizens for a New Highland Library.”