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Expansion Project Timeline from 1992 to June 2005

1992 December

In his letter of resignation to the City Manager, Director of Libraries Joseph Sakey states that the Main Library is in need of expansion and that it will be a major challenge facing his successor


Library Director and Board of Trustees explore alternative sites

Library asks City to investigate availability of foreclosed Porter Exchange for new main library (Cambridge Chronicle story; first press coverage)

Deputy City Manager and Library Director meet with Assistant City Manager for Community Development to discuss possible sites for new main library

Library decides to hire consultant for strategic plan, necessary for grant application, a pre-requirement for a state library construction grant

Mayor Reeves proposes new main library in Central Square area (Boston Globe)


City Council approves FY95 library budget with administrative goal to identify current and future needs of main library and to conduct feasibility study of current main library

Survey of Cambridge residents on library issues; strong support for new library

Beginning of strategic planning process

August RFP issued for building planning consultant; Aaron Cohen Associates hired

Cambridge Library Trustees meet with Deputy Manager Rossi on search for site

Deputy City Manager and Library Director meet with Representatives from the Community Development Department and Harvard University Real Estate to discuss potential sites for a new main library

Trustees proceed with discussions of development program for new facility; Aaron Cohen, library consultant, conducts focus groups with adult and adolescent library users, high school students, staff, trustees, and city administration


FY95/96 budget passed by City Council includes $70,000 for an architect to prepare schematic drawings for expansion of Main Library (a requirement for state library construction grant to be submitted in March 1996)

Building program draft submitted to the City Manager

Review of available sites leads to decision to go forward on Broadway

A Request for Proposal issued for an architect to develop design for a new main library on the Broadway site

Library Director meets with Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association on expansion

Trustees designate representative to Library Building Planning Committee

Architect Selection Committee chooses Rawn/Beha (new building/preservation) team to design renovated and expanded main library

Trustees invite City Councilors for personal tours of Main Library

City Manager advertises for citizen participation in the Library Design Advisory Committee

Library Design Advisory Committee formed

Trustees approve strategic plan for submission to Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Library Director meets with Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association on expansion; group agrees to establish study committee on main library expansion

Rawn/Beha and Library Director meet with representatives of the School Committee to discuss various options for expansion on current site


City Manager’s Office and Cambridge Public Library Trustees hold public design workshops by Rawn/Beha (18 hours over three days) followed by recap and community forum at CRLS

Library Design Advisory Committee votes to endorse Rawn/Beha Design

Library publishes pamphlet, "Why Improve and Expand the Main Library?"

Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association Library Study Committee recommendations presented to members. Six of seven recommendations pass; motion endorsing Rawn/Beha design is tabled

Library Director and Rawn/Beha meet with School Department to discuss library expansion and to explore option for "shared parking"

March 4
Library Director, Head of Cambridge Historic Commission, and Rawn/Beha present proposed library expansion plans to Mid-Cambridge Conservation District Commission

Library Trustees vote to support expansion on present site

March 14
Library Director and Rawn/Beha meet with Principal of CRLS to discuss proposed plans

March 18
City Manager, Library Director and Trustees present expansion plan, known informally as the "J Scheme" to City Council ; Advocates for the relocation of the Main Library proposed Central Square as the best site for a new main library; there was some objection to the use of the parking lot and driveway for library expansion

March 25
City Council votes (9-0) that the main library should remain at the Broadway site; that the CPL should proceed to apply for a state construction grant; and that the Manager, with input from various city departments and the assistance of a new citywide advisory committee, "thoroughly review the proposed program and design" and report to the Council by June 15 "so that the Council can make its final decision at its mid-summer meeting."

Library submits state grant application

Rizzo Associates hired to conduct traffic study of current site

May 1
The City Manager establishes the new city-wide advisory committee co-chaired by Nancy Woods and Richard Rossi, Deputy City Manager. The committee became known as the Library 21 (L21) Committee

Manager informs City Council he will not proceed with grant application as it is his understanding that it does not have the support of a majority of the Councilors

Between May 1996 and September 1997, L21 held approximately 28 public meetings; meetings were held in the Main Library and in almost all the branches; meetings were also held in the Morse and Haggerty Schools, the Area 4 Youth Center and the Central Square Senior Center. The Committees work was divided into phases:

L21 Phase I. May-August 1996: Getting started--learning about the library system and its relationship to the community and the schools; work groups set up: library systems in the US; Cambridge Archives, young adults, computers and networking, community outreach and data base development, neighborhoods, seniors, K through 8th grade readers

L21 Phase II. September-November 1996: Casting a wide net/envisioning the library—gathering input from library professionals, including the Director of the MIT Library system; from the public (over 2000 comments were obtained); from outreach to many community groups

October 19
L21 and Cambridge Public Library sponsor a visit to the Everett, Waltham and Newton Public Libraries

October 23
L21 Committee and the Cambridge Public Library Board of Trustees co-sponsor a symposium—"The Public Library in the 21st Century-An Exploration of Possibilities." Over 100 people attended.


L21 Phase III. January-September: Refining the opportunities—examining all the input from Phase II and begin to shape the program and set priorities

July 16
The L21 Committee invited three respected library directors to review its program recommendations and offer their suggestions for improvement--Tom Jewell, Director of the Waltham Public Library; Penelope Johnson, Director of the Worcester Public Library; and Paula Polk, Director of the Morse Institute, Natick.

October 1
The Library 21 Committee submitted its recommendations to the City Manager-- a vision, a program for the main library, including the methodology, benefits of an expanded main library, its constituencies, the structure of the library system, benefits of community collaboration, library roles and functions and related space requirements. The Committee concluded that a new main library should be 90,000 to 100,000 square feet. In view of the lack of consensus on the site, the Committee recommended that the city conduct an objective site search and analysis and include the Broadway site in this process." The committee would continue to advise the City Manager in so far as the siting impacted the program.


February 23
City Council approves $84,200 to hire "consulting services associated with the main library site selection process." The successful candidate is Sasaki Associates.

June 10
The City holds three public meetings where Sasaki Associates explain their methodology for site selection, identify and evaluate the sites. The study looked at over 30 sites in the city and evaluated them in terms of program suitability, parcel size, accessibility, centrality, availability, "civic heart", relationship to branch libraries and schools. Sasaki recommended two first choice sites of equal merit: the present site and the 7-11 block. They also selected 4 second choice sites: Naggar Block, Post Office, Prospect Street parking lot, the TAD Block.

April L21 and the Cambridge Public Library publish a brochure, "My Library/Your Library: We’ve Got Plans!" about the services and facilities in a new main library; 4,000 copies are distributed to library users and in central places around town

June 22
The City Manager submits the "Cambridge Library Site Selection Study" to the City Council.

October 6
Sasaki Associates presents their site recommendations to the School Committee

November 16
City Manager requests additional information from the United States Postal Service about the Central Square Post Office and the possibility of acquiring the site for the library.


Trustees commission a citywide resident survey. Results favor Broadway site

The City Manager and Council members continue to meet with USPS officials and to analyze the possible sites; those in the running at this point are: Broadway, Central Square Post Office, YMCA, 7-11 Block, Prospect Street Parking lot

City Manager and staff hold on-going meetings with private property owners and work with consultants to assess costs and legal issues around these sites


The City Manager requests $25,000 to hire three architecture firms to develop exterior renderings designs and cost estimates for three of the four remaining potential sites--Broadway, the parking lot on the north side of Prospect Street and the 7-11 block at the corner of Pleasant Street and Massachusetts Avenue. A developer working with the YMCA identified a fourth architect to develop a schematic design for a fourth site: the post office and YMCA

Renderings of the four sites are presented to the City Council and public

City Council narrows sites to the Broadway site and 65 Prospect Street parking lot. The Post Office/YMCA option as well as the 7-11 option are eliminated from consideration. Council approves $80,000 for an in-depth feasibility study and real estate appraisal of Prospect St.

City Council votes 9-0 to make libraries an allowable use in any zone in the city.

City Council votes 7-2 to expand the Main Library building on its current site and appropriates $31,785,495 for Main library building project


City Council votes 7-1 (1 absent) to authorize the City Manager to sell bonds to fund the Main Library expansion.

This material was compiled by Board of Library Trustees. Susan Flannery (Library Director), Don York (library staff member) and Lisa Peterson( Assistant to the City Manager) also provided review and input.


Rawn/Beha contracted to undertake Expansion Project

Owner's representative/project director hired

City Manager appointed new 18-member, citywide Design Advisory Committee (DAC)
First DAC meeting held on June 27, 2002 which resulted in the Main Library Building Update


Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Conservation District Commission (MCNCDC) approves conceptual design for Main Library expansion, subject to review of design details


City Council appropriates $31,500,000 in additional funds for Main library project

Planning Board approves City's application for a Special Permit for project

MCNCDC approves final design details for building and landscape


Main Library closes to prepare for move to Longfellow School

Main Library reopens at the Longfellow School
Ceremonial groundbreaking is held at Main Library site

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners awards a $6,651,647 Project for General Construction Grant to the CPL and designates it #1 on the waiting list for an additional $4,046,848 if the state appropriates more money