Whitehall News

Construction on new Whitehall library to begin Sept. 10

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The new Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library will be nearly three times the size of the existing library when it opens June 2014.

It also will include an unusual children's area made possible with a $750,000 gift.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new $7.6 million library is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, at the site of the new library, 4445 E. Broad St.

"We are very excited about the groundbreaking and especially the opening (next year)," said Gregg Dodd, director for marketing for Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Scheduled to speak at the Sept. 10 groundbreaking ceremony is Patrick Losinski, corporate executive officer of Columbus Metropolitan Library and a representative of Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design, the architects of the new library.

Later the same day, library administrators and those involved in the construction of the new library will staff an open house from 7 to 8 p.m. Sept. 10 at the current Whitehall library, 4371 E. Broad St., to answer any questions about the project and display renderings of the new library.

"We want the Whitehall community to be a part of this process," Dodd said. "This groundbreaking is a celebration that has been a long time coming."

The Whitehall branch, along with the nearby Driving Park branch on East Livingston Avenue, are the first two of 10 branches CML is improving or rebuilding as part of its "2020 Vision Plan," library administrators said.

A groundbreaking for the Driving Park branch was held earlier this year, and Whitehall is the second project to begin on a scheduled list of 10 capital improvement projects, Dodd said.

Columbus Metropolitan Library scouted multiple sites before its board of trustees in June 2012 approved the purchase of a 6.4-acre site for $550,000 at 4445 E. Broad St.

In February 2012, representatives from CML, Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design and Rounthwaite, Dick & Hadley Architects inspected eight sites.

The sites were evaluated upon criteria CML had identified: a site between 3 to 6 acres in size, on an arterial road, close to the existing branch and centrally located to meet CML system's needs.

Among the final sites considered was the former Safe Auto headquarters on East Broad Street, but that site required "corrective action" that might have included demolition of the building to allow for the construction of a new building, officials said.

CML also passed on the purchase of a 3.1-acre site at Etna and County Club roads, owned by the city of Whitehall. Library officials considered the city-owned site to be "too far west and not centrally located to meet the expanding library system needs."

The new site is more than six times the size of the current 0.93-acre library parcel.

The new, undeveloped parcel is on the south side of East Broad Street, just east of South Yearling Road. It was purchased from the estate of Mary M. Woods at slightly less than the appraised value of $580,000, library officials said.

"A lot about this site (intended for a residential subdivision) spoke to us," Kerry Bierman, the former director of the 2020 Vision Plan for CML, said last year. "That subdivision was never built, and it remained undeveloped."

The site also has historical significance as one of the earliest air strips in Ohio, a site where World War I pilot and central Ohio native Eddie Rickenbacker was known to operate aircraft.

A small marker noting the site as such will be incorporated into the design of the new library.

"All the other sites (also) had a structure that would have required some kind of modification or demolition, (and) that was a factor in the site we chose," Bierman said last year.

Maintaining a location on a major arterial road -- East Broad Street -- also provides convenience for patrons, some of whom might not live in Whitehall, to pick up or return items, particularly reserved items, while en route to other destinations, officials said about the choice for the new site.

The existing Whitehall branch, at 4371 E. Broad St., opened in 1959. It was renovated in 1982, and an addition was built in 1993. That addition, however, left the site with less than adequate parking, and that was one of the criteria used in selecting the Whitehall branch as one of two that CML had chosen to rebuild first as part of its 2020 Vision Plan.

"We know parking has been a continuing problem," Dodd said.

The existing library has about 40 parking spots; the new branch will have more than 100, Dodd said.

The size of the new library will be more than 20,000 square feet, nearly three times the size of the existing 7,466-square-foot library.

The new library also will showcase a feature unique to the Whitehall branch: a children's area constructed with a legacy gift from a former librarian, Carol Snowden, who worked at the library from 1978 until her death in 2008.

"The legacy gift ... will allow us to create an inspired children's area unlike any other," Dodd said.