Plan Commission approves Library's request for new facility at 210 S. Sixth St.
The City of Geneva's Plan Commission has voted in favor of the Library's application to build a new facility at 210 S. Sixth St. The Commission's recommendation will be forwarded to Geneva City Council's Committee of the Whole, which is expected to discuss the project at its March 26 meeting, held at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 22 S. First St. The proposed 57,000-square-foot building will have 76 off-street parking spaces, and associated site improvements, which will include installing “high visibility” crosswalks surrounding the development and across both of the two proposed driveway approaches to 7th Street as recommended by the Library's traffic consultant.
The March 8 Plan Commission vote followed a Feb. 22 public hearing in which library representatives presented building plans to Plan Commission members. The commission also heard public testimony, discussed the proposal for a Planned Unit Development (PUD), and voted that evening to review and recommend the project at their March 8 meeting.
The Historic Preservation Commission had considered the Library's proposal on Dec. 19 and provided recommendations to the Plan Commission regarding the character of the development, yard setbacks, landscape features, and building scale.
What is a Planned Unit Development (PUD)? The Library's PUD proposal establishes a mini zoning district just for this building, and adjustments to the residential zoning code ordinance for the site for this new use is an allowable special use in this District. The adjustments occur mostly in response to community feedback received - both in general and from the community forums held regarding the design. For example, the Library heard a lot of requests to minimize the view of the parking lot, so architects created a park-like setting with fewer parking stalls - 76 - and that requires a variance. The Library also got feedback asking architects to minimize the appearance of the height of the building, while still remaining at or below the height of the former Sixth Street School building. The building is partially buried 4 to 6 feet below grade at the corner of Sixth and Campbell, while the top story is set back from the perimeter, and that also requires a variance.
When and how did the Library plan for a new library? The Library began a public engagement process in 2014 with community conversations to learn what the community wanted and needed from their library. The following year, the Library conducted a community-wide survey to learn more about current and future needs. The survey results led to a series of focus groups that targeted specific demographics in the Library District: representatives from local government, businesses, teens, adults in their 20s & 30s, seniors, and residents living west of Randall Road. All of these discussions helped the Library Board formulate plans for a new library that would serve the 21st century needs of the community. In 2016, the Library purchased 210 S. Sixth St., a site that allows the Library to maintain its presence in downtown Geneva. The site has a long history of public use, and the City of Geneva's Comprehensive Plan indicates that the site will be used for a new library.
When and how did the Library inform the community of the need for a new library? After closing on the purchase of 210 S. Sixth St., Library Board members and the Library Director went door-to-door in the neighborhood to inform residents of the purchase and to invite them to a meeting to discuss the future of the Library. In addition, the Library Board scheduled public sessions open to the community to gain more feedback. In December 2016, the Board voted to go to referendum and over the next few months scheduled open houses at the Library for the public to learn about the referendum. Board members also met with community organizations, service groups, governmental agencies, and more. In all, Board members met with more than 1,000 community members as part of their public engagement process.
When and how did the Library develop building plans for the new Library? The referendum requesting $21.8 million to build a new library passed in April 2017. In June, the Library scheduled the first of three community forums with architects from StudioGC. The Library recorded each session so it was accessible to the community. The sessions with the public led to four design concepts that the architects presented to the Historic Preservation Commission for concept reviews over the course of two informational meetings. HPC feedback led to additional revisions to the plans. The 57,000-square-foot building was reduced to a 54,000-square-foot building with 3,000 square feet of mechanicals below ground. In addition, architects rotated the building and enlarged the park.
How did the Library determine the size of the new building? The needs assessment the Library conducted in 2015 included a review of peer libraries with populations similar to Geneva Public Library District (the Library District, which extends beyond the City of Geneva's borders, has a current population of approximately 30,500. The District's population is projected to grow to 40,000). That information, along with feedback from community members about what they wanted in a new library, guided the size of the proposed building. The original concept was for a 65,000-square-foot building, and community feedback led architects to reduce the building footprint to 57,000 square feet. As the planning process continued, architects adjusted the building's size to the current 54,000 square feet with 3,000 square feet of mechanicals below ground.
What are some of the amenities of the new Library? The first floor features three meeting rooms that can be divided so the Library can host more than one event at a time. There will be a cafe area with vending machines provided as a convenience, but no cafe since downtown Geneva has several wonderful options already, and the Library encourages the community to patronize those local businesses. The middle ground area for middle school students will be expanded in the new facility. There will be a science lab, the children's collection, and indoor and outdoor programming space. The second floor will feature the adult collection, collaborative space, technology and lab spaces, a craft lab, outdoor reading space, and a quiet reading area.
The third floor will house most of the Library staff.
What informed the design of the new library? The building’s design unites many elements of the community, and was developed with feedback from both the public and the Historic Preservation Commission. The HPC encouraged architects to examine the history of the area as an industrial corridor and tie some of those elements into the design.
the colors and texture of the material choice reflects the Fox Valley limestone prevalent in the area
the curvilinear ribbon that flows along the second floor was inspired by the cottonwood tree on-site and treehouses seen in residential neighborhoods
the old lumber mill and the Pope box company which cladded many of the former industrial buildings along Seventh Street were inspirations for the vertical expressions seen in the design
the arch at the roof level that echoes the hull of the Viking ship now resting in Good Templar Park is meant to pay homage to the Swedish heritage of the area
What will happen to the park on the site? Library officials are working with Park District officials to develop plans for a new playground at the corner of Sixth and Franklin. The Park District will also engage in a public process to seek input.
When will the new library open? The goal is a prospective opening date in mid-year 2019.