Another reiteration of the soundness of my recommendations: DC's Central Library
- The Downtown Action Plan of 2001 recommended that the library be expanded into a premier cultural asset for the city.
- A few years later it was suggested that the current library be abandoned for a new building as part of what is now CityCenter DC. Many people opposed the move because it called for a smaller library and there was a lack of trust that the city would follow through.
- A few years ago, the library system did a put up job, commissioning a study by the Urban Land Institute who accepted the scope given to them that a renovated library could happen, but should be smaller, and could involve mixing unrelated commercial or residential space within the building footprint.
- Afterwards they commissioned a study to see if this were possible.
- And then had a design competition to further elucidate the concepts and to pick a winner, which is Mecanoo, designer of the Library of Birmingham in the UK and the Dudley Square Municipal Building (which I wrote about here, "Public buildings as vehicles for community improvement (continued)") among others.
Imagine my surprise to see that according to the Washington Business Journal ("D.C. rethinks its central library plans, goes bigger") the Library system now believes--after a public comment process--that they need to expand the building and its cultural functions.
Unrelated mixed use still a potential element of the project. Although there is still talk of the potential for adding a three-stories of unrelated space on top of a building expanded to five stories.
I think that's a bad idea as argued above. The Central Library is a community's most prominent cultural and civic asset.
DC is an odd case, because it is a national capital and a local city, so some of the more prominent cultural assets, like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, are federal. But for the city to have its own identity, it needs to develop, enhance, extend, and coordinate its own set of civic and cultural assets.
The Central Library is usually a city's most prominent local cultural asset, often including an auditorium, meeting spaces, galleries and exhibit spaces.
And no major city in the world has put unrelated mixed uses within the building footprint of its central library or city hall (although Syracuse does rent out some un-used space in its city hall, but then, Syracuse isn't a world city).
Medellin as a counter-example. While not a national capital, Medellin, Colombia exemplifies the point of utilizing libraries as a key element of a network of civic and cultural assets focused on uplifting citizens and improving neighborhoods through the expansion of cultural, parks, and public space and services with a library as the anchor. See "A city rises, along with its hopes," from the New York Times and "Library Parks Foster Community to Colombia" from Pacific Standard.
Obviously, these arguments are extendable to the city scale.