Of all the comments Sarasota County staff had received on preliminary design features for the new Gulf Gate library, “ninety-eight percent have been positive, overwhelmingly,” Project Manager Carolyn Eastwood told the County Commission during its regular meeting June 26.
After she and her team showed the board the latest design concepts for the facility planned to replace the existing library at 7112 Curtiss Ave., Eastwood asked for the commisisoners’ “blessing going forward.”
Commissioner Joe Barbetta responded with a motion for “[the team] to go forward with what we’ve seen today and refining it.”
Commissioner Nora Patterson seconded the motion.
“Third,”Commissioner Carolyn Mason added, drawing chuckles.
The motion passed unanimously.
“I think I like what I see,” Barbetta said.
A few people had expressed disapproval of the modernist look of the exterior, Eastwood responded.
“I like the style,” Commissioner Jon Thaxton said.
“And personally I love that kind of style,” Patterson added. However, she said, “it isn’t always the easiest to maintain.”
Sarabeth Kalajian, general manager of the county’s library system, told the board that when the project team had met earlier in the day, its focus was, ‘Let’s get the design that’s easy to maintain.’”
The design is expected to be complete by January 2013, Eastwood said, with construction getting under way in February 2013. Completion is projected for April 2014, she added, with a grand opening in May that year.
A fourth open-house meeting on the design work is scheduled for the public on Aug. 9, Eastwood said.
Mason commended the project team for holding the three open-house meetings. Eastwood had noted earlier that those sessions had drawn 80, 35 and 76 attendees, respectively.
When she attended two of the meetings, Mason said, “people were just raving about that particular format and how it provided an informal way for them to speak …”
Mason added, “Some people don’t like speaking in public, but they have something to say.”
Kalajian responded that she had seen some of the same people at all three open houses. “It’s really an engagement” with community members, she added.
One major concern prior to the start of construction is finding a temporary location for the library, Eastwood added. Kalajian is working on that with John Herrli, the county’s land acquisition manager, Eastwood said.
When Patterson asked whether the new library could be completed earlier than planned, Eastwood replied, “We’ve been talking about how to advance some of the project as best we can.”
Considering the heavy use of Gulf Gate Library, Patterson said, “a temporary facility, no matter how well done, is still going to be not the same.”
Eastwood said staff was hopeful that suitable temporary quarters could be found close to the site of the current library.
It probably would not have as many books, she added, but “this library has a very strong youth activity center,” so staff was trying to find a place that could accommodate as many of the regular programs as possible.
Eastwood and Ward J. Friszolowski, executive vice president of Harvard Jolly Inc. — the architectural firm handling the design — both commented on the current schematics as they showed them to the board. Eastwood pointed out that a number of people had told the project team they didn’t like the long walk from the furthest point of the parking lot to the current facility.
Therefore, Friszolowski said, the new library would be located in the middle of the property.
Eastwood noted that the existing single-story structure is about 17,000 square feet, while the new, two-story building will be approximately 28,500 square feet.
As he brought up the slides of the conceptual concepts for the interior, Friszolowski pointed out the first floor would include a small café, a Friends of the Library area — with the group’s bookstore — the circulation desk, a children’s area with a story-time room and an area that featuring primarily books in the adult fiction collection.
Outside courtyards will be included in the design, he said, as those existing features of the current library have proven very popular.
Patterson asked about shade for outdoor seating areas, saying she saw none on the conceptual plans.
A project team member assured her that shade would be included in the design through the use of trellis-type structures.
The public will be able to access the second floor by a grand staircase or by two elevators, Friszolowski continued.
Among the features of that level will be “a great space for teens, which are an important part of the [library user] population” for Gulf Gate, Friszolowski said.
The second floor also will have the public computer area, study rooms and the Youth Department.
The design will make use of natural light as much as possible, he said, though in a controlled fashion that would be energy-efficient.
Thaxton drew laughter with a comment about the landscaping: “I look at these [schematics] sometimes and pay attention to things I’m not supposed to pay attention to,” he said. The plans for the new library “show pinnate palms rather than the palmate palms” native to Florida, he pointed out.
“The landscaping is not so [literal] as the building [design] itself,” Friszolowski replied.
The Harvard Jolly team has a landscape architect on staff to make certain appropriate plants and trees will be included on the site, he added.
Thaxton drew more chuckles later when he asked whether the latest interior color scheme included more burnt orange than the previous renderings had featured.
A staff member responded that the shading change had resulted from the use of a different printer for the schematics.