Changes afoot: Renovation of firehouse library to start soon

The Madrona-Sally Goldmark Library is about to get a face lift.

Last month, members of the community got a glimpse of what's to come at an open house at the library, at 1134 33rd Ave.

Converted from a firehouse in 1973, the library will undergo a renovation that will include a new entrance vestibule on East Union Street, a fresh interior layout, an upgraded technology center and an updated book collection.

Smaller library project

Funding was provided for this remodel through a 1998 bond measure approved by Seattle voters, which raised $196.4 million for renovating the Seattle library system.

According to Justine Kim, the Seattle Public Library project manager, this particular project's budget is $392,213, with additional funding coming from savings that were to go toward maintenance of the site.

Currently at the end of the design process, Kim said construction bidding would begin in early 2007.

"Even though it's a really small scope, we're trying to reorganize everything and make it look like a brand-new building inside," Kim said.

She also said that there is a set schedule for construction, "but in an old building like this, there could be a lot of unforeseen conditions that could delay the project."

Thomas Isarankura, the head architect on the project, said, "If we can reopen the library by the end of the year (2007), I think everyone will be happy."

A 'radical' change

Although primarily focused on high-end residential projects, Isarankura's firm, Heliotrope Architects, has long had a desire to work in the public sector, according to Isarankura.

He said that the firm was eager to work on something "beneficial to the neighborhood and city at large."

A collaborative effort between Isarankura and his two partners in the firm, the five-month design process for the renovation was inspired by the firehouse history, its frequent use by youngsters and a desire to make it a more prominent presence in the neighborhood.

"The one thing this building lacks is natural light," Isarankura said. His solution is to remove existing columns, install skylights and create staggered shelving that provides more light and open space in the interior.

The entrance vestibule will feature a fire engine-red color over a steel-plate exterior.

Isarankura was concerned about the community response but said he received a lot of positive feedback at the recent open house.

Harriett Cody, a community member who was present at the meeting, said the proposal was "very radical, but it's fun to make it less boring-looking."

A different focus

The renovation also will include refocusing the collection so it is tailored to the community's use patterns, which according to Kim, are heavily focused on children's books.

At the November meeting, branch manager Valerie Garrett-Turner explained that during any branch closures, new inventory is constantly being purchased.

"This branch will be slightly different be-cause it's not just weeding and refreshing the collection, but trying to focus the collection to be more user-specific," Kim said.

During the closure, current staff also will relocate to nearby libraries and will reassemble on the opening date.

"They love us at the moment for giving them a break room," said Kim, who explained that the remodel includes creating a space for staff to store belongings and eat lunch.

Kim said that nearer to the closure, the library will send out a bookmark to all of its current patrons, guiding them to the nearby libraries so they will still have access to literary resources.

'Kingdom' to stay

Community members at the meeting also expressed concern regarding the Richard Beyer aluminum sculpture that the library received in 1984.

The sculpture is a life-size casting depicting a lion and wolf coexisting with a sheep and lamb, with the animals' paws on a book.

Kim said patrons can rest assured that the sculpture will stay at its current location and construction should not affect it at all. The "Peaceable Kingdom," as it is called, will continue to exist in its current harmony.

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