Oregon City leaders fell in love with architectural renderings to expand the Carnegie Library at its current site.

by: RENDERING COURTESY: CITY OF OREGON CITY - THA Architectures vision for a two-story expansion and renovation of Oregon City's library at the Carnegie Center receives unanimous support from city commissioners and the Library Board.City commissioners overcame their previous political opposition and unanimously designated the Carnegie Center as the site for an expansion last week, seven days after OC’s Library Board unanimously recommended the plan on June 12.

Library Director Maureen Cole said she “knew we could build a really amazing library building here” but recognized several issues, including the loss of park space. Kim Walsh, who lives a couple blocks from the site with her 8-year-old son, asked commissioners to minimize the amount of grass and trees taken up by the addition.

“When we were trying to imagine this as a site, it was very, very difficult to imagine, and that’s one reason I think that everybody just pushed it away for so many years,” Cole said.

Dave Keltner of THA Architecture tried to be “sympathetic” to the historic aspects of the original building with a visually separate modern addition.

“You’re going to be adding a really big building next to a small building, so you want to be careful that what you build around it is scaled appropriately,” Keltner said.

One approach could try to copy the Carnegie Building, “puff it up and spread it around the site,” Keltner joked.

Instead, he attempted to follow federal guidelines that discourage creating a false sense of historic development and recommend differentiating additions from original buildings.

“The key is to be compatible, and that is a big deal,” he said.

Keltner was inspired by contrasts between a civic function and a beautiful rural setting at the library site. He saw the Carnegie building as an expression of early 20th-century civility through Georgian architecture in a classic Oregon wooded landscape.

On the first floor of a possible two-story expansion concept, masonry design could be compatible with the existing library. “Rhythm and scale” of pillars holding a glassy “tree house” second-story reading room could relate with ornamentation on the current facade.

Keltner’s one-story option would require removing more of the one-block park, but he also floated a variation on the one-story concept that would build a green roof.

“Our goal was to show the gamut of options,” he said.

Impressed by the potential alternatives, Mayor Doug Neeley said that the city’s Concerts in the Park series might have to relocate to a larger venue anyway. Neeley and other commissioners talked about how the expansion could not only provide adequate library space, but also revitalize the neighborhood at large.

“This could be a major driving factor on what could happen on the Seventh Street corridor,” Neeley said.

Commissioner Rocky Smith, who was against expanding the Carnegie Library two years ago, now “couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Another previous opponent to the idea, Commissioner Kathy Roth, after suggesting more intensive geological studies, said “it is time to get it done.”

The coming months will include additional studies, a formal design process and other opportunities for public input.

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