Louisville’s next regional library is set to break ground on a pristine greenfield site in Okolona tomorrow, Friday, September 18. The so-called South Central Regional Library will be situated on a former wooded lot on the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and McCawley Road in a sprawling area next to Jefferson Mall.
The groundbreaking will take place at 10:30a.m. Representatives from the Louisville Library Advisory Commission, the nonprofit Louisville Library Foundation, and Mayor Greg Fischer will be in attendance.
The $14.5 million library will house some 40,000 square feet of space, replacing the nearby Okolona branch library. As we reported in December 2014, some in the community expresses concern that the name Okolona would not be in the new library’s title. It is expected to open in early 2017.
The building has been designed by Minneapolis-based MS&R Architecture and Louisville’s JRA Architects. We requested more renderings of the project, but the library declined to release more visuals until the groundbreaking.
The design has changed substantially since it was first unveiled last November. Then, plans called for a boxy “lantern in the woods” design. The updated version is distinctly more angular. The new library will offer a distinctly more modern appearance than the typical strip mall and big box stores that dominate the area today.
The program includes meeting rooms, classrooms, study rooms, 120,000 books, a children’s library, a teen center, and a computer lab.
According to the LFPL:
The total price tag for construction, books, computers and furnishings is estimated at $14.5 million, with $6 million coming from the state, $6 million in capital funds allocated by Mayor Fischer and approved by the Metro Council, and the additional $2.5 million to be raised from private donors.
We previously criticized the urbanism of the project, citing its lack of walkability, clear-cutting a greenfield forest, and general continuation of the pattern of auto-centric sprawl in the area.
At the December community meeting, library officials described some of the features of the new design:
- For kindergarteners, there will be little alcoves between bookshelves, which will house “concept areas” and “activity walls” that teach basic education.
- For students, the library will feature classrooms with retractable glass walls, allowing the rooms to be either small and intimate, or open and relaxed.
- Dedicated quiet spaces will be scattered throughout the library, offering patrons a place to read or study peacefully.
- A reading room will be constructed to accommodate 150 people and will be available for use as a community meeting space or lecture room.
- A “living edge” of trees and gardens will surround the library exterior, which will provide a visual buffer between the library’s west-facing panoramic windows and Jefferson Boulevard.
The South Central Regional Library is the second such facility of three proposed to be built. The Southwest Regional Library, also designed by MS&R and JRA, opened in October 2014 at 9725 Dixie Highway. A timeline for the final regional library, to be located off Hurstbourne Parkway, has not been set.
MS&R has been in charge of Louisville’s library expansion in recent years. Besides completing the library’s master plan in 2009, the firm also designed the new Shawnee Branch Library, the Fairdale Branch Library, the Newburg Branch Library, and the Southwest Regional Library, pictured below.
The South Central Regional Library is also the first major project to be overseen by the LFPL’s new director, James Blanton, who previously oversaw Owensboro’s library system since 2012. Before that, Blanton held a variety of positions at the Chesapeake Public Library in Virginia and served as a Librarian at the Lexington Public Library.
Mayor Fischer appointed Blanton director in June after former director Craig Buthod announced his retirement last November. Buthod held the library’s top spot since 2008, spearheaded the campaign to build the regional library system, and just this month announced that he was leaving retirement to serve as CEO of the Filson Historical Society.