South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Mount library renovations to begin after Carrick finished

 

October 24, 2017



Major changes are in store for the Mount Washington Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, including handicapped-accessibility, a new HVAC system, and an improved interior design.

The new renovations and an estimated timeline were discussed during a presentation from Carnegie Library staff at a community feedback meeting last week at the Mount Washington Senior Center.

According to Mary Monaghan, assistant director at Carnegie Library, the “bare minimum” upgrades for the project include ADA compliance, a new heating and ventilation system, LED lighting, the newest Wifi capabilities, and a new slate roof.

“We’re at the very beginning of this process,” Ms. Monaghan said. “This is the start. We’re looking to have a conversation about what you’re looking to see for your library.”

These features will serve as a “baseline” for the project which will derive funding from Carnegie Library’s Capital Improvement Program, an initiative that funds renovations for each library branch. Mount Washington will be the last library to receive renovations under this program which began in 2002.

Funding for any additional development will need to come from other resources, according to Karlyn Voss, director of external and government relations at Carnegie Library.

“We do have money to do the base project,” Ms. Voss said. “And then we have to raise money to do the fun stuff.”

Of the renovations, ADA compliance remains the primary focus as Mount Washington is the only library branch not handicapped-accessible; however, this presents challenges as the building is a historic landmark and owned by the city. As a result, changes cannot be made to the exterior.

“We have done renovations with historic buildings of this size, such as the West End, South Side, and Lawrenceville [branches],” Ms. Monaghan said. “We are looking at budgets and project scopes similar to those projects.”

Ms. Monaghan said a former ADA feasibility study revealed an elevator could be installed in the rear, which will likely be part of the initial plan discussed with the project’s architect in the coming weeks.

There are also plans to install a ramp or a three-stop elevator to reach the lower-level meeting room, which currently requires visitors to use a small set of stairs.

In addition to ADA compliance, Ms. Monaghan said interior improvements will make the library more “user friendly and welcoming.”

She anticipates a children’s room, a teen space, a computer area, and meeting space. Residents generally agreed that maintaining a minimum of two meeting rooms is important.

Residents also said restroom space is critical as tourists riding the incline often use the library’s facilities as there are no other alternatives on Grandview Avenue.

Other suggestions included more computers, portable desks, comfortable chairs, and a new activity room for classes and programming. Several in attendance asked if a parking lot could be installed in the space behind the library.

Ron Graziano, director of facilities, said the possibility of using the backyard for parking will be budget driven. He plans to price out parking options, but he also said the site already presents challenges for staging construction equipment.

A resident asked if it would be less expensive to build a new library in the space behind the existing building. Mr. Graziano said that building on the hillside would not be financially feasible.

Another resident asked why the library’s windows were recently removed if the project had not yet started. Mr. Graziano said that the windows were rotting in place, so the plan was to get a jump start on repairs.

An official timeline has not been established, but the construction would not begin until after the Carrick branch re-opens, which is scheduled to happen next fall. Renovations can take up to a year, and residents should expect the branch to be closed during this time.

Ms. Monaghan said the planning phase will kick off after construction on the Carrick branch begins, which is scheduled to start before the end of October.

“We do one project a year,” Ms. Monaghan said. “As soon as we start construction on one, we begin planning on another.”

After an architect is selected, the Carnegie Library will determine how much extra square feet is needed. Staff will then report back to the community for feedback after the architect constructs initial designs.

The next meeting date hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it will take place at the Mount Washington Senior Center on Virginia Avenue.

 

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