Main librarys second floor adds 36,000 square feet

The city of Hillsboro’s $9 million program to rebuild the city’s two public library buildings is rolling along in high gear, with a major expansion of the main library expected to be completed in May.

Although the main library, at 2850 NE Brookwood Parkway, is still quite new — it opened in May 2007 — the facility was never completed. Due to budget constraints, only the first floor of the two-story library building was put into use. But that’s about to HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Contractors finish off one of the interior walls as work on the second floor of Hillsboro's main library nears completion.

“When we did that building, we figured in five to seven years we’d build out the second floor, which was unfinished except for the bathrooms in the southeast corner,” said Michael Smith, Hillsboro’s library director. “It’s a 77,000 square foot building, and by opening the second floor we’re adding almost 36,000 square feet.”

Recently, the Hillsboro City Council decided this was a good time to complete the library, for two reasons: First, when the economy is in a downturn, the bids for construction projects are often significantly lower than in boom times; and second, use of the library is surging.

“Our libraries are incredibly important to our community,” said Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey. “The numbers speak for themselves. For calendar year 2012, the combined gate count at both of our libraries was 794,446, and checkouts and renewals totaled 2,875,285.”

Seizing the opportunity to complete the main library at reduced cost, on May 15, 2012, the council approved $9 million in general obligation bonds to pay for reconstruction work at both library buildings.

“The main library is at capacity, so the second floor expansion will be a welcome addition, and the 35-year-old Shute Park branch was in need of a total makeover,” Willey explained. “This is a sound investment in our community’s livability.”

Last November, the primary contractor, Portland-based Howard S. Wright Co., began work on the main library, and the project is well on its way to completion.

“We expect to be done and have the second floor available to the public probably in late May,” Smith said.

The expansion now under way will triple the seating available for library patrons. In addition, a conference room that seats 230 is being built on the second floor.

“Libraries have been transformed into community centers,” said Michael Brown, Hillsboro’s city manager. “It’s not just about books and quiet. They are centers for forums and discussions. That’s what this investment is about.”

To minimize conflicts with library uses, the contractors are doing most of their work during hours the library is closed. The construction generally is under way from 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m., but the heaviest construction work is limited to times when the library is not in use.

“They stop making noise at about 10 a.m., when we open,” said Smith, who has been the library’s director for the past five years. “They’ve been terrific.”

Once work on the Brookwood building is done, the contractor will turn its attention to the city’s 15,000 square foot Shute Park branch library at 775 SE 10th Ave.

The Shute Park facility opened in 1975, and it is showing its age.

The structure needs a long list of upgrades, including a new roof; replacing the old windows with modern, energy-efficient designs; seismically refitting the entire building for better survivability in the event of an earthquake; and replacing the electrical systems and the plumbing.

“It is one of the least efficient buildings the city owns,” Smith explained. “It’s really in bad shape. We’re keeping the same footprint and design, but we’re changing everything out.”

Further, the main entrance at Shute Park will be relocated from the south side to the west side of the building, and the entire interior of the library will be rebuilt. Because the project is so extensive, the Shute Park facility will remain closed to the public during the entire 10 months it will take to complete the work.

Work at Shute Park is scheduled to kick off on May 24, and the work is expected to be finished by next March.

Andrew Georgesen, project manager for Howard S. Wright, said he has been pleased with the way the project has proceeded.

“We’re a little bit ahead of schedule, and we’ve had almost no complaints,” Georgesen said.

Smith said he has been impressed with the contractor’s efforts to eliminate dust and noise while engaged in a major construction project.

“We’re very happy,” Smith said.

The Hillsboro Public Library has scheduled a grand opening celebration for Sunday, June 2, to showcase the revamped Brookwood facility. The event will run from noon until 6 p.m.

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