New Chapter: SPL breaks ground on Central Library

Published 9:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

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Wednesday marked a new beginning for Suffolk Public Library with the groundbreaking of their upcoming library. City, library officials and even children of Suffolk came together to break ground for the Suffolk Central Library on Wednesday, April 17 at 309 W. Washington St. Approximately 37,800 square feet, the two story library will be three times the size of the current Morgan Memorial Library and will offer more space with abundant outdoor connections and a focus on engaging the city’s diverse population. Mayor Michael D. Duman gave remarks during the ceremony, noting that the project has been “very, very much anticipated.”

“From the very inception of this project, we strive to ensure that every aspect of the new library reflects the unique needs and aspirations of our people,” Duman said. “Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we embarked on an extensive community engagement effort, listening attentively to the voices of our citizens. What emerged from this dialogue were invaluable insights that have shaped the very fabric of this building.”

Duman continued noting the “vital” role the library will play in the lives of youth and also thanked members of the homeschooling community for attending as well. He likewise provided details on the library’s design and its impact in the Downtown area. 

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“The architectural design of the library pays homage to our city’s rich heritage, drawing its design inspiration from the historic property grid along West Washington Street,” Duman said. “The creation of the modestly scaled civic plaza at the main entrance coupled with…outdoor activity spaces at the rear ensures that the library seamlessly integrates into the urban landscape and connects into the neighborhood. In addition, we are undertaking significant infrastructure enhancements, including the redesign of Lee Street into a one-way thoroughfare to facilitate convenient access for visitors, and the new stormwater management component to this project, that [not] only adds a small greenspace to the vibrant downtown landscape, but underscores our commitment to sustainable development and environmental stewardship.”

Council Member John Rector of the Suffolk borough also gave remarks on Downtown Suffolk’s new milestone.

“Today we stand on the cusp of an exciting new chapter in the story of Downtown Suffolk, a chapter that promises to bring vibrancy, vitality and enrichment to our beloved community,” Rector said. “With the groundbreaking of the new Suffolk Central Library, we are not just directing a building. We are igniting a beacon of opportunity and transformation right here in the heart of our city.”

During his remarks, Director of Libraries Clint S. Rudy called the moment exciting. He detailed that the library will provide 10 study rooms, two conference rooms, and many spaces for all ages, both inside and outside.

“My repeated theme throughout this entire project, as the architects know, has been flexibility and versatility. How do we make this building responsive to the community needs now and in the future? And really this is about transformation. How do we provide those opportunities for people to thrive?” Rudy said. “So I hope you will join me in imagining the possibilities for your library.”

The ceremony also saw the official proclamation and recognition of National Library Week, which occurred from April 7 through the 13. Following the ceremony, Rudy commented on how “really excited” he was to finally reach this point.

“Being able to see the dirt move, see the building start to rise out of the ground will be so exciting over the next two years,” Rudy said.

Rudy noted that following the completion of Suffolk Central Library Morgan Memorial Library will close, with the new Central Library serving as the new base of operations. Rudy thanked everyone’s support for the project and for attending the event.

“I love that we had children participating because that’s really what it’s about,” Rudy said. “It’s all ages and it’s really about education and connecting the community and I feel like that’s the energy that you feel today.”

Suffolk Public Library Advisory Board Chairman Sean C. Bilby also gave high remarks to Rudy and the SPL staff for their continued work in Suffolk and the start of the library’s new chapter.

“Suffolk is fortunate that [the] hard work by the library staff is an award-winning library recognized across the state,” Bilby said. “This is just another step so that they will finally have the facilities to put in the collections, have the programs…so that we can be an even better community in Downtown Suffolk.”

The Suffolk Central Library project is expected to last 18 months with an estimated completion date of fall 2025.

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