Firm selected to design new library

Published 10:02 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The city has selected Richmond-based Quinn Evans Architects as the firm to design its new $21.1 million downtown library.

Deputy City Manager Scott Mills, in updating City Council on the Downtown Master Plan during a work session Wednesday, said there were 11 firms that bid on the project, and it hopes to have a contract executed with the company by the end of this month.

He said Quinn Evans “is very well qualified” to design the new library.

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Most recently, the firm designed a new, 44,000-square-foot library in Henrico County, just outside of Richmond. That library opened in October and is expected to have many of the features sought in the request for proposal for Suffolk’s new library. According to the Henrico Citizen, that facility has space for adults, children and teens, with meeting and conference rooms and a digital media lab. That library replaced a 22,000-square-foot library.

Suffolk, meanwhile, will be replacing the 14,500-square-foot Morgan Memorial Library at 443 W. Washington St. across from City Hall with a 45,305-square-foot library that will also be on West Washington Street.

The new library is part of the city’s Downtown Master Plan. The request for proposal for design services for the new library states that it “would be designed with wide-ranging community input to develop a flexible and versatile community building” to handle about 100,000 volumes of library materials and support about 35 staff members, including library administration, support services, outreach and bookmobile services.

The RFP also notes the new library would include a lounge and study areas, along with conference, meeting and exhibit spaces, and include state-of-the-art technology, internet access and dedicated spaces for early childhood literacy, teens and local history and genealogy.

In the most recent adopted Capital Improvement Program and Plan for fiscal years 2020 to 2029, the city has set aside $1.9 million in fiscal year 2020 for the design of the new library to go on West Washington Street.

In his presentation to council, Mills also gave status updates on other aspects of the Downtown Master Plan.

He noted that the city has contracted with Commonwealth Preservation group to review and provide recommendations to the city’s Historic District Design Guidelines. Mills said public hearings by both the Planning Commission and council can be expected in winter 2020.

Mills also noted amendments to city code regarding outdoor dining and food trucks have already been completed, and amendments to the unified development ordinance are under way.

Downtown branding recommendations, meanwhile, are expected in early 2020 from Brand First, which has held public meetings in the last several months, he said, with an integrated and permanent wayfinding system and parking system for downtown to be linked to the branding effort. The wayfinding system, Mills said, would come as the branding effort winds down.

Mills also noted that the old assessor’s building has been demolished in preparation for a new parking lot design, resulting in 17 additional parking spaces, while the city police have been working to prepare a map of all street and private lighting downtown.