Re-imagine a New Central Library
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, at 901 G St. NW, will have a major modernization to meet the needs of D.C. residents. The building, designed by modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was designated an historic landmark in 2007.
The DC Public Library is exploring what's possible for this historic building, and how to make it a spectacular central library.
What's New?Library Building Program. This document will continue to evolve as the design process moves forward. It is guided by four principles:
- Balance the joy of reading with space for innovation, creation, collaboration and technology.
- Showcase the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Respect the building’s historic designation and the industrial, modern style of the building’s original architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
- Create a space that is bright, open, flexible and welcoming for all.
The lead regulatory agency for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library modernization is the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the federal planning agency for the nation's capital. NCPC's review process includes an environmental assessment of the project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Preparation of the environmental assessment will enable NCPC to evaluate and analyze the environmental impacts of the project and alternatives under consideration. Concurrently, NCPC will be conducting consultation under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to take into account the effects of the project on historic properties.
The NEPA process requires a public scoping process, during which the public was invited to provide feedback on the potential environmental impacts of several design alternatives. The NEPA public scoping meeting was held on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the MLK Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. The public scoping period ended on Oct. 31, 2014.
Historic Preservation Review Board
The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) of the Distric of Columbia also will review the proposed modernization plans.
While the plans have not been finalized, the architect team gave an informational presentation at a public hearing on Jan. 22 to give the HPRB an opportunity to react to the current proposals. The presentation focused on the proposed alterations to the historic fabric of the building.
No formal approval or denial will be issued by the HPRB at this stage in the process. Scroll through the images below to see highlights of the proposed changes.
The total cost for the project has not been determined. Early estimates for the total cost range from $225 million to $250 million. The Mayor and City Council have committed approximately $200 million in the capital budget.
In September, the Library convened neighborhood meetings to answer questions and get residents' ideas for the building. Each meeting was hosted by a member of the MLK Renovation Advisory Panel. More than 60 people attended the meetings held at William O. Lockridge/Bellevue Library, Francis A. Gregory Library and in the West End (at St. Paul's Parish).
Browse comments and questions from neighborhood meetings here.
The Library will hold additional neighborhood meetings throughout the District as the planning continues. Check back for more details or sign up to receive email alerts.
Please share your thoughts and comments here.
The Library wants to hear from you about what services, spaces and technology you want to see in the modernized library. Share your ideas and view other ideas in the MLK Jr. Library Idea Community. Anyone can view public comments, but you must register to post comments.
Get up-to-date information about the status of the project and leave your comments on the MLK Library Blog. Sign up to receive email updates on the MLK Jr. Library project.
The Library is conducting focus groups and surveys with a wide range of residents including adults, seniors, teens, school-age children, teachers, parents with young children, Spanish-speaking customers and other stakeholders. To date, we have hosted 16 focus groups.
Here's some of what we've heard so far:
- Community Forum, May 19
- Library Design Roundtable, April 24
- Focus Groups
- Letter from First Congregational Church
Martinez + Johnson is a D.C.-based firm that has extensive experience with historic modernization projects including D.C.’s Takoma Park and Georgetown libraries. Mecanoo is a Dutch-based firm whose work includes Boston’s Dudley Municipal Center and the Library of Birmingham in England.
The three-phase architect selection process began in August when the Library issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) to identify interested firms with experience working on similar projects. An expert panel reviewed submissions from 26 firms that responded to the RFQ by the Sept. 23 deadline.
On Oct. 18, 2013, ten firms were selected from the original 26 to move to the second round in the search for an architecture team. The 10 firms were invited to respond to a request for technical proposal to determine how each firm would approach designing the library. Proposals were due Nov. 20, 2013. Firms were not asked to submit design concepts during this round. Instead, proposals were judged by a team of library, urban planning, architecture and preservation experts that evaluated the firms based on the following:
- Senior personnel assigned to the project, and their experience designing and completing major libraries and obtaining appropriate approvals from D.C. and federal review agencies;
- Approach to managing the project, developing the project budget, managing the costs and schedule while ensuring the final design meets budget requirements, and addressing key challenges that are inherent in the project; and
- Ability to meet or exceed the District’s Certified Business Enterprise participation rate of 35 percent.
The teams presented their design ideas to the public, the Technical Evaluation Committee and the Advisory Panel at a Library Design Forum on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. Images from all the architects' proposals were available for public viewing at MLK Jr. Memorial Library and all neighborhood libraries. The final team was announced on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
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- Renovate the building for sole use by the library.
- Renovate and add two or more floors to the building, sharing occupancy with other tenants, and using the revenue from the additional space to help fund the renovation of the library.
In September 2012, with funding from Mayor Gray, the library engaged The Freelon Group, the Martin Luther King Jr. Library architect-of-record at the time, and other consultants, to test the options identified in the ULI report and present their findings to the library board and community. Their work and the conceptual images support the following conclusions:
- It is possible to make the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library a knock-your-socks-off library for the 21st century at the current site, if extensive and expensive improvements are made.
- The existing structural support system of the building makes it possible to add two floors to the building to accommodate other uses, without additional support.
At their November 2012 meeting, the library board passed a resolution stating that the central library will remain in its current location, 901 G St. NW, and reaffirmed that it will continue to be called the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. It also requested the staff to proceed with examining options for additional investment to make it into a state-of-the-art central library.
The DC Public Library submitted the FY2014 Budget Support Act Report on Sept. 27, 2013, to the City Council. It detailed progress for the major renovation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.