The architects designing Unalaska's library renovation are considering a new option.
Rather than expanding the building south toward the senior center, as initially proposed, they're looking at expanding it to the north.
Principal Architect Brian Meissner — of firm ECI Hyer — proposed the idea last week while updating the community on the project, expected to grow the library by about 3,000 square feet.
KUCB's Laura Kraegel sat down with Meissner to learn more about the plans, which are progressing from concept drawings to final designs.
BRIAN MEISSNER: In starting the [final] design, we ask the questions that we didn't ask before. And one of them was: What if we expand towards the parking lot? It put the circulation desk in the middle of the library. It put the noisy stuff — the teens and the children — over on the entry side rather than on the far side of the library. And it just balanced everything else nicely. It also maintained the ability to expand the other direction in future, so it seems to have locked in pretty solidly this week on expanding towards the parking lot.
KUCB: And does that idea allow for a larger public meeting space — something that we're now hearing a lot of interest in now?
MEISSNER: Yeah, the meeting space is an interesting one. When we were doing the predevelopment work, there was a lot of talk about a larger meeting space and the fact that the one in here is not big enough for some of the events. But at that time, it was a couple of events a year — two, three, four — that might've needed the bigger room. We come back a year later, and now it's like monthly. I think that what [city librarian] Karen [Kresh] and her staff have done with programming has taken hold and that demand is only going to increase. So we're trying to figure out how that can be both a meeting room and a gathering space to support things like Dr. Seuss [readings], the murder mystery [party] they recently had, and day to day, be used for something. I think that's going to be our challenge. If we have it, it has to be used more than just once a month.
KUCB: You've said another challenge will be figuring out how to expand given the library's metal roof. And this week, a few Unalaskans have said: If we're going to do the work of expanding and building a new section of the roof in that process, why not go even further? While we're at it, why not just push out that indented section at the northeast corner? Are you going to consider that?
MEISSNER: We are. We're going to come back with options that fit within the $4.6 million budget that was established, and we're going to come back with options that have that larger meeting space — that fill out the whole front — because there are two things being said. One: If we're going to push that direction, we should build what we can in that direction now, because it's far more expensive to build a small piece there later. And then there's a layer on top of that — a desire for a place to be a little noisier near the entry and have room to sit. To Skype or maybe even drink coffee. We have that question [about creating] a space that a private vendor could come in and serve coffee, either through a machine or with a barista. So we're going to explore those ideas and come back with options in January.
KUCB: Until then, I understand you've created a website where community members can continue offering ideas and feedback?
MEISSNER: We've set up a website. It's more of a blog: unalaskalibraryimprovements.com. It's a place where anyone can go and see the progress of the design. You can provide comments. There's a phone number to contact. There's a comment button to contact. And we'll also be putting a survey up there to ask some specific questions to help prioritize things like a large meeting room and coffee — some of these things that aren't in the budget, but that we'd like to get some of [in the design]. So we're going ask for help in prioritizing.
KUCB: You will be back on-island several times this winter to show Unalaskans how the plans are shaping up and to present to the City Council. But when do you expect to have that final design done and ready to go to a construction team?
MEISSNER: The overall design process has us going to 100 percent by October. And that allows us to go out to bid over the winter so that construction can start a year from spring. That'll be good for people to know. Know that there is an end game.