- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2019

The D.C. Public Library system’s centerpiece, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, is undergoing a $221 million renovation that will include new spaces to boost training for the city’s hospitality industry.

The library is set to reopen in fall 2020 with a new rooftop event space, creative spaces for music and art production, a cafe and a refurbished mural, among other changes.

“The modernized MLK library will be a place that people will want to spend hours visiting and that will be intentional about honoring Dr. King in the building’s experiences,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the D.C. Public Library.

A key feature will be the refurbished mural that chronicles the life of the library’s namesake. The library, located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood, has displayed the artwork since the first time Martin Luther King Day was celebrated nationally in 1986.

To fund the addition of two new floors along with the rest of the project, the library is tapping into its capital budget, which relies on municipal bonds and federal grants.

The new design was created by Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo, and Gilbane and Smoot Construction is managing the renovation.

The library aims to use the event spaces and the cafe to partner with a catering company to offer training in the hospitality industry, as well as pricing and menu options appropriate for a diverse clientele.

“By giving cafe employees job training in customer service, hospitality, time management and in other areas to prepare them for success beyond their time at the Library, the cafe embodies Dr. King’s passion for economic self-determination,” Mr. Reyes-Gavilan said.

The deadline to submit a proposal to partner with the library is Sept. 6. On Friday, the library will hold a pre-bid conference and site visit.

Planning for the renovation began in 2011; since then, the library has hosted 60 community meetings, convened focus groups and conducted surveys to receive input from residents.

Some of the feedback, which is incorporated in the final design, called for more natural light, “green” spaces, a welcoming entrance and use of public art.

In March 2017, the library closed to begin renovations, offering interim services at 1990 K St. NW.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Michael Shankle said the community is looking forward to having this part of the District “re-activated,” adding that library representatives will give a presentation on the renovation at the 2C ANC meeting in September.

“People in the community really miss it,” Mr. Shankle said. “It is such a convenient place for people to congregate, it is almost like the living room of the city in some ways.”

Completed in 1972 at a cost of $18 million, the library was designed by world renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It was his last project and his only public building.

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