Urban Land Institute Releases Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Assessment Findings

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Urban Land Institute Releases Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Assessment Findings

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) presented its findings and recommendations today at a public meeting on the use and potential of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building.   The ULI findings are designed to help guide District leaders and residents in making decisions about the use of the building.

“The recommendations presented today will be used to begin a conversation with elected leaders and the public about what is possible for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building,” said Ginnie Cooper, chief librarian for the District of Columbia.  “As the remaining neighborhood libraries are being rebuilt or renovated, now is the time to begin planning how to provide modern library service at a downtown central library.” 

The building has many major system challenges which make it difficult to provide library service.  For example, there are no restrooms on the main level and only one accessible men’s restroom on the lower level.  The building’s 11 elevators need upgrades and asbestos abatement is needed.   In addition, the HVAC systems need to be modernized.  

The findings are based on the ULI Advisory Services Panel's five-day review. The eight-member panel—comprised of national experts in the fields of architecture, urban planning, commercial and residential development, finance and library sciences—interviewed stakeholders, toured the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building, and reviewed demographic and trend data to develop their suggestions.   The panel was asked to evaluate the current Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library building and consider if the library should be co-located with another entity, remain as a stand-alone library in its current location, of if the District should sell or lease the building and move Library services to another downtown location.  The panel also assessed how the current front of the building on G st. could be more active or useful.  A copy of the presentation can be downloaded here.

The DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) partnered with the DC Public Library to commission the ULI panel. Richard H. Bradley, the DowntownDC BID’s executive director, applauded the all-volunteer panel’s efforts. "The city’s central library has served as an invaluable repository since its inception,” he said. “However, it needs to grow along with the city to meet varied and ever-increasing demands, and today’s findings are a first step in that direction.”

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Stakeholder Interviews
More than 70 stakeholders were interviewed by ULI Advisory Services Panel.  The list included Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, homeless advocates, representatives of the Federation of Friends of the DC Public Library as well as business and government leaders.

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 400,000 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.

About the DowntownDC Business Improvement District
The DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) is a private non-profit organization that provides capital improvements, resources and research to help diversify the economy and enhance the Downtown experience for all. This special district, where property owners have agreed to tax themselves to fund services, encompasses a 138-block area of approximately 825 properties from Massachusetts Avenue on the north to Constitution Avenue on the south, and from Louisiana Avenue on the east to 16th Street on the west. As a catalyst, facilitator and thought leader, the DowntownDC BID promotes public/private partnerships to create a remarkable urban environment.  For more information, visit www.DowntownDC.org or follow on Twitter @downtowndcbid.