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April 9 1998 Letter to Editor


RE: Site selection process for new public library in Cambridge

Dear Editor:

The Library 21 Committee has come a very long way in the process of planning for a
new main library and we'd like to give an update of where we are now.  We've completed Phases I, II and III and have a well-developed program for the main library as a "civic heart" of the City of Cambridge.  The civic heart means a place that truly belongs to everyone, where everyone feels welcome and can find something enriching, no matter who or what you are or what educational level you are.  It is free to all.  It also  means a building that is distinguished and gives a memorable civic presence to the City.

We recommended that the City Manager hire a consultant to undertake a process to identify sites that are appropriate for a main library that will function as the civic heart.  This process will be concluded by late Spring.  He accepted this recommendation and we are now in Phase IV, the site evaluation phase.  The Broadway site where the main library is currently located will be evaluated along with the other sites.  During the first three phases, we tried to keep everyone focused on the program....now it is finally OK to talk about the site!

In June, the consultants, Sasaki Associates will recommend 3 to 5 sites to the City Manager.  The sites will be evaluated according to a number of criteria, including size, access by public transportation and by car, adjacencies, potential for adding to the civic presence on a major public street, potential for expansion, and positive impact on the library system and its program.

On March 24, at the first of three public meetings, the Sasaki team presented slides of the many centers in Cambridge, from Fresh Pond to Harvard to Central to Kendall to Inman, to get us to think about the most appropriate location for the library.  Should it be in a 'pioneer' site like Fresh Pond on the edge of the city?  How about a park-like setting like the current site? Or an urban location in Harvard or Porter or Central Squares?  Sasaki suggested that the location should ideally be within a ten minute walk of a Red Line subway stop.

Our program calls for a building that is total of 90,000 to 100,000 square feet, including public and staff spaces, meeting rooms, building systems and circulation.  The Sasaki team's analysis showed that a new library should ideally be no more than 5 stories and would more likely be 3 to 4 stories for maximum efficiency. In comparison, the current main library is 36,000 square feet.  Parking will need to be accommodated either on the site or nearby.

The City Manager has said that nothing is off-limits and encourages Sasaki to be creative and not to limit their search to city-owned properties.  Already, Sasaki has made extensive contacts to real estate developers, institutions, private owners and welcomes all inquires.  If you have a site in mind, please send a brief written description, including ownership, location, size, terms and conditions under which the site could potentially be made available and name of a contact person, to Ms. Carla Francazio, Sasaki Associates, 64 Pleasant Street, Watertown, MA 02172; information may also be faxed, 617/923-7210.  To keep to the schedule, please send your information by April 22.

The remaining public meetings will be held on April 30 and June 10, both at 6:30 at the Main Library and the public is welcome to attend.  The Library 21 Committee's web site contains all the meeting notes, reports and meeting schedules: www.ci.cambridge.ma.us/~ CPL/Lib21/.


Nancy Woods     Richard Rossi