March 29, 2011 |

Carnegie selects site for new combined Hilltop library

The management staff of the Carnegie Library now knows what the community wants if the Knoxville and Carrick branches merge and if the Carnegie builds a new building to house both.

A public meeting sponsored by Carnegie Library on March 19 at Temple Baptist Church updated interested area residents on the planning and results from a year of interaction with the neighborhoods.

Mary Frances Cooper, library deputy director, said she and others heard the following: everyone likes the staff and appreciates good customer service; there is a concern about parking and safety; materials for research and schoolwork are considered very important; and, space is needed for the variety of programs a library offers.

Residents have encouraged library staff to locate any new library close to the bus line and within walking distance for children.

As a result, library officials are setting up a meeting with the Port Authority to discuss traffic patterns, safety and access to a new facility.

Library officials have been looking for a new site. The buildings housing the two current branches are owned by the City of Pittsburgh.

Ron Graziano, the library's director of facilities and development, reported on the results of the search in which more than three dozen properties were considered as possible locations. Owners were contacted by letter and many of them never responded.

Library reps are currently negotiating with the owner of property at 1001 Brownsville Road, where there once was a used car lot. The property is nearly halfway between the two branches, but two tenths of a mile closer to Knoxville.

Photos of the site and others were available for review at the meeting.

No zoning change would be required for the used car lot site. In addition to the library building at the site, they would be also able to install 16 parking spaces. The next steps in the construction process would be for core samples to be studied and for an architect to do preliminary drawings.

Ms. Cooper said the two branches wouldn't close until it was absolutely necessary. The staff hopes construction might start in mid-2012 if all else goes smoothly.

"We want to build something fantastic that would make a statement for this area," she said.

Plans to close branches in Beechview, Lawrenceville, Hazelwood and West End were halted when library officials received offers of financial help from the city and other sources. However, the library board said at that time it would still consider the Knoxville and Carrick merger due to a desire to improve efficiency and the need to reach more people.

The Knoxville branch has the highest amount of computer usage in the entire Carnegie system, Ms. Cooper said.

The Carnegie staff had many brainstorming sessions at public meetings and met with many community groups. At last week's meeting, the library representatives heard more input from the public.

A lady from Overbrook told them she did not want a new library to be named the Hilltop Branch. "We are not part of the Hilltop."

"We understand that," Ms. Cooper said. "We are not even close to naming it," Mr. Graziano said.

An audience member complimented the representatives on their "due diligence" and on meeting with the public before formulating plans.

There were complaints about the former Giant Eagle on Brownsville Road being a "blighted building" and the library staff said they found negotiation sessions with the company to be tough and difficult.

"I am 95 percent sold that this project is the right thing to do," said Mike Dawida, a former Allegheny County commissioner, who had obtained funding for the Carrick branch in the past.

"Our community deserves a beautiful, gorgeous building," City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak added.

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