Designs for library, fire station presented to local residents

by Danielle Telson
Hatchet Reporter

The developer for the West End Library and Engine 1 fire station discussed design plans for the two properties Monday night at a West End Library Friends meeting.

Eastbanc presented and explained the proposed features, which call for the West End Library complex to house the library, retail space, a coffee shop, a parking lot and 174 condominiums.

Plans to redevelop the library at 1101 24th St., fire station at 2225 M St. and MPD Special Operations building at 2301 L St. have been in the works since summer 2007 - when Eastbanc originally won the contract to develop the sites - but the bidding process was restarted after residents raised concerns about it.

"We've got community spaces, children's services, adult services, staff, and references. And they are trying to see how they can allocate all that space," said Joe Sternlieb, vice president in Acquisitions with Eastbanc.

Representatives for the developer said the library will occupy one level with a possible mezzanine level for staff use, and will maintain the same functions and hold analogous rooms and spaces to what is currently housed.

As for the fire station, plans include a renovated firehouse, a public squash court, and five stories of affordable housing, which would be assigned to those making less than 60 percent of the area's median income, Sternlieb said.

"I've noticed that people are excited for this development. It creates a sense of community having residences along with a community center like a library," WELF President Susan Haight said.

In general, WELF members looked forward to the changes, but some still had concerns about parking.

The number of parking spots to be allocated for public use has yet to be determined, but 180 of about 198 total spaces in the lot are estimated to be used by private residents.

"We have plenty of spaces to allocate to the library if they chose to take money out of construction to pay for the spots. There is also an option for pay-to-park," Sternlieb said.

He said parking was estimated to cost about $3 to $4 per hour.

Residents also noted that in the past there have been issues with homeless people in the library.

"The problem that [D.C. Public Libraries] has had with West End and others is that the buildings look not all that different from homeless shelters," Sternlieb said.

"But you find with the newer libraries that have been built, if they are really bright sunny places that attract the rest of the community, it's not that the homeless still don't come, it just feels like less of a homeless shelter," he said.

The project still has many phases to go through before Eastbanc can break ground.

The Planned Unit Development submission is proposed for May 2011. The D.C. Zoning Commission refers to projects like this one as PUDs because of their special multi-purpose use.

Zoning laws for PUDs must meet mandates for the specific uses the building will have. Eastbanc plans to hold a PUD hearing in front of the Zoning Commission in September 2011 and hopes to break ground in November 2012.

The estimated date of completion for the project is February 2015.

During construction, the library will be temporarily moved to a new location in the West End. The same sort of move will happen with the firehouse.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission will host a special meeting April 25 to go over Eastbanc's plans for the sites. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel at 2401 M St.

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