Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Building Assessment Project

Consultants Susan Kent and June Garcia; Freelon Group architects and Jair Lynch Development Partners presented details on the possibilities for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Building to the Library Board of Trustees and the public on Sept. 19, 2012.

The Urban Land Institute Final Report is available.  We hope this is the start of a conversation about the best use for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building.MLK Library Building  Preliminary findings were presented at a public meeting in November 2011.

Project Background

What was the Project?
The DC Public Library in partnership with the Downtown Business Improvement District engaged D.C.-based Urban Land Institute to review and assess the value of the historic-designated Ludwig Mies van der Rohe building at 901 G Street, NW which houses the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and discuss how to leverage the value of the building to benefit the District of Columbia. 

A advisory panel made up of national experts in the fields of architecture, urban planning, commercial and residential development, finance and library sciences spent the week of November 13th:

  • Reviewing demographic and trend data
  • Discussing the ideal location for a downtown central library which, based on national research, should be about 225,000 - 250,000 square feet.  Currently the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building is 440,000 square feet.
  • Discussing the potential uses of and development around the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building.
  • Conducting interviews with about 70 area residents who work, live and/or do business in the District including civic and community leaders, elected officials, advisory neighborhood commissioners, commercial and residential developers, architects, business organizations, financial institutions and religious institutions. 
  • Reporting findings and make recommendations to the DC Public Library on the future use of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building. 


What the Project WAS NOT

  • The five-day panel did not address whether there should be a central library.  The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library will continue to exist and will be located downtown.
  • The panel did not discuss or review library services offered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.  They only addressed the building.


Who were the Panel Members?
The expert advisory panel was comprised of members from across the country.  The panel members intentionally involved individuals who are not from the D.C. area to ensure an unbiased and objective review.  The panel members were:

Wayne Ratkovich - Chair
President, The Ratkovich Company
Los Angeles, Calif.
Wayne Ratkovich is the founder and president and chief executive officer of The Ratkovich Company (TRC), a Los Angeles development firm whose focus is to "profitably produce developments that improve the quality of urban life."  Specializing in urban infill and rehabilitation projects, his firm's accomplishments range from large-scale urban planning and entitlement endeavors to retail, office, entertainment and mixed-use projects.  His company engages in both new development and the imaginative reuse of existing buildings including eight buildings of historic landmark status.  Mr. Ratkovich, in his 33 years as a member of the Urban Land Institute, has chaired eight expert panels.  Mr. Ratkovich is also an Emeritus Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Daniel Brents, FAIA, AICP
Daniel Brents Consulting
Houston, Texas
Dan Brents is an architect and urban planner with experience in the private and public real property development sectors worldwide.  As a former partner at Gensler, he led the firm's global Planning & Urban Design practice, managed the architectural studio and led large scale projects.  Mr. Brents was also the vice president of architecture and planning for Disney's real estate development group in France at Disneyland Paris.

Ayahlushin Getachew
Senior Vice President, Thomas Properties Group, Inc.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Ayahlushim Getachew is senior vice president at Thomas Properties Group (TPG) responsible for leading TPG's efforts in advising NBC Universal on the "Evolution" masterplan and backlot residential development.  Prior to TPG, Ms. Getachew served as regional administrator overseeing the downtown Los Angeles region for the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.

Susan Kent
Managing Member, S.R. Kent LLC
Los Angeles, Calif.
Susan Kent has more than 40 years experience in public libraries.  In 2008, she formed S.R. Kent LLC, a consulting firm which provides services to libraries, foundations and nonprofit organizations in the areas of capital facilities planning and strategic planning, management and organization development, fundraising and leadership development.  Ms. Kent has served as director and chief executive of The Branch Libraries of New York Public Library, city librarian for the Los Angeles Public Library and director of the Minneapolis Public Library.

Sandra Kulli
President, Kulli Marketing Company
Malibu, Calif.
As president of Kulli Marketing Company, Sandra Kulli creates marketing programs for homebuilders.  She has worked with 95 builders on 124 communities with a sales volume of $2.6 billion in the United States, Japan and New Zealand  She worked three years as vice president of marketing for a large homebuilder, sold homes for Coldwell Banker and taught in inner-city schools.  She serves on the boards of KCRW, National Public Radio and PCBC.

Michael Reynolds
Principal, The Concord Group
Newport Beach, Calif.
Michael Reynolds is a principal of The Concord Group, a real estate advisory firm with offices in northern and southern California and Boston.  Mr. Reynolds has expertise in market, economic and financial analyses associated with existing properties as well as development opportunities.  He has provided consultation to owners and operators of real estate for the past 12 years completing more than 750 projects on a local and national basis.  Mr. Reynolds specializes in urban mixed-use, master planned residential and commercial land, multi-family apartments and seniors housing.

Mimi Sadler
Principal, Sadler & Whitehead, PLC
Richmond, Va.
Mary Harding Sadler is a historical architect and principal with Sadler & Whitehead Architects, PLC, a small business she formed with husband Camden Whitehead in 1997.  With experience she gained in eight years as senior architect with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Ms. Sadler's career has focused on historic preservation and adaptive reuse projects.  She has provided consultation on the expansions of the Washington Dulles International and Reagan National airports, and Colonial Williamsburg Lodge and Spa.  Ms. Sadler currently chairs the city of Richmond's Commission of Architectural Review and serves on the board of the Storefront for Community Design, a nonprofit design center.

Mike Sullivan
Principal, Looney Ricks Kiss
Memphis, Tenn.
Mike leads a collaborative studio that incorporates the talents of civic, healthcare, commercial, retail and high-density residential architects and urban planners from each of LRK's studios for the design of client/market driven design solutions.  During his 22 years of experience at LRK, Mr. Sullivan has served as principal in charge and project manager for several large-scale healthcare projects, as well as major firm projects including East Baton Parish Library, Rouzan Branch in Baton Rouge, La. and Memphis/Shelby County Public Library & Information Center in Memphis, Tenn.

About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute (ULI), founded in 1936, is a D.C.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit research and education membership organization with members in 95 countries worldwide, representing the entire spectrum of land use and real estate development disciplines working in private enterprise and public service.  ULI facilitates an open exchange of ideas, information and experience among local, national and international industry leaders and policy makers dedicated to creating better places.  ULI has held several advisory panels in the District of Columbia including St. Elizabeth's Campus, Great Streets and most recently Gallaudet University.  Visit ULI for more information.

About the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Building
World-famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was commissioned to design the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building and ground was broken at 9th and G streets, NW in July 1968.  Constructed of matte black steel and bronzed-tinted glass, the building cost about $18 million and provides 440,000 square feet of floor space on four floors above ground and three underground levels.  The building opened to the public in 1972 and is designated a historic landmark.  It serves as the city's central library.