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Construction of 4 libraries to start next year

- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2007

Construction will begin next summer on a stalled project to rebuild four D.C. libraries that have been closed for more than two years, city officials announced yesterday.

"With these great architects and engineers, we will design exceptional spaces for neighborhood libraries in the District of Columbia," Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper said during a press conference at the Anacostia interim library in Southeast. "I am eager to begin the building process with these talented teams."

Architectural firm Davis Brody Bond Aedas and the Freelon Group Inc., in connection with R. McGhee and Associates, have been chosen to design and construct the new Anacostia, Benning, Tenley-Friendship and Watha T. Daniel-Shaw neighborhood libraries, said District spokeswoman Monica Lewis.

The $37 million project is scheduled to be finished by early 2010, Miss Lewis said. Each branch will be bigger than the previous one, with 18,000 to 20,000 square feet.

The branches closed December 2004 after a $21 million rebuilding contract was awarded to the firms Hess Construction and Grimm and Parker.

The libraries' Board of Trustees canceled the contract in 2005 at the request of the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement because Hess' designs were outdated and the company had asked for more money. About $3.3 million was spent on the project.

The branches have been operating out of trailers in the interim.

Library officials said they are eager to get the project underway, but there is already opposition to the plan.

Some residents who say library officials left them out of the new plans for the project were last month granted a temporary injunction in D.C. Superior Court to halt the demolition of the Benning branch. They are arguing the building was designed to accommodate the addition of another floor.

"The community is concerned because they think it may be more cost effective to renovate," said D.C. Library Renaissance Project Director Robin Diener. "They are afraid that if the building is razed, they won't have that option."

Jane Zara, a plaintiff in the case, said she and the other plaintiffs will be filing an amended complaint today in court. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 2.

Miss Lewis said she could not comment on the case because it is ongoing.