It has been more than a year since Highland voters approved a bond of $4.8 million to build a new library. But at long last, things are moving forward. The proposed design by the architectural firm of Butler Rowland Mays Architects LLP was approved by the state Education Department’s Division of Library Development in July. Bid packages to do the construction went out shortly afterward. The Barone Construction Group of Highland will manage the project and oversee the work once it begins.
According to library director Julie Kelsall-Dempsey, Highland Library trustees anticipate being able to award the contract at their regular meeting on Thursday, August 25. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Sunday, September 25 at 1 p.m. at 7 Elting Place — the site for the new library — and they hope to begin work by the first week of October.
Butler Rowland Mays Architects LLP specializes in library design. The extensive list of libraries they’ve either built or remodeled in the region include those in Gardiner, Saugerties, Cairo, Kingston, Kinderhook, Cornwall and Gloversville. Developed with input from the communities they serve, their libraries are never treated as “one-size-fits-all” projects, according to architect Paul Mays. In Highland, he collaborated with library trustees and administrators from the beginning of the design process to solicit suggestions from residents through a series of community workshops.
Highland residents expressed the desire for a library that will serve as a “hub” for the community. They asked for 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 approved design takes into account not only what the residents asked for in terms of features but how they will use those features. For example, the children’s area is located apart 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 internal windows allow supervision by library staff.
The lot at 7 Elting Place 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 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.
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.
The 10,250-square-foot building is 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 parcel of land was purchased from the Archdiocese of New York for $125,000, with the advantage of already having been off the tax rolls, keeping taxpayer impact stable. The location is two-tenths of a mile from the library’s current location at 30 Church St., where the 100-year-old Highland Public Library has been housed since February of 1930. The structure was deemed beyond economic feasibility to renovate. The building will be put up for sale with profits to act as a source of revenue for the new library.
The $4.8 million project adds $78 per year to the tax bill 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 in the future.
Updates are posted at “Citizens for a New Highland Library” on Facebook or visit the library’s website at www.highlandlibrary.org.