In reversal, Milwaukie's Ledding Library building to be razed
In May 2016 Milwaukie voters passed a $9.2 million bond measure to renovate and expand the Ledding Library, so citizens have been wondering when the city will put the money to use.
The timing question was easily answered. Officials hope to start construction by "early summer" 2018 with completion by September 2019.
But the cause of the delay in getting the project started surprised many attendees of the Nov. 14 meeting of the Milwaukie Rotary Club. Library Director Katie Newell presented the latest plan for Ledding, which will involve leveling the current structure and starting over with a new library building.
Officials had planned to renovate the historic Ledding structure while doubling the size of the building through an addition, much like the library project in Oregon City, but the renovation/expansion approach proved impossible with a $10 million budget. Ledding Library currently is stitched together by several additions, including a piece of Florence Ledding's original home, and Milwaukie's contracted structural engineers found the situation was untenable.
"Seismically this is not good," said Laura Klinger, of Hacker Architects, the firm leading the Ledding project. "It would take so much to get it up to code; it's kind of cost-prohibitive."
In Dec. 16, 1964, Ledding Library was dedicated with just 8,770 square feet of space, using Florence Ledding's converted home that she donated to the city. A bequest by Clark King in 1987 allowed Ledding Library to expand to its current approximately 12,000 square feet.
In 2016, architects had submitted preliminary plans for a two-story 13,000-square-foot addition to expand the building to the north. Now, instead of building a more prominent entry porch where the old and new portions of the building meet, the old building will be completely razed to make way for a new 20,000-square-foot one-story library.
With $1 million from the county, the $10.2 million set aside for the Ledding Library project won't likely be enough to fulfill the dreams of the project team, Milwaukie Library Director Katie Newell said. Milwaukie property taxpayers saw an increase of $62 annually for 20 years on the average home assessed at $175,000.
"It's never enough," Newell said. "There will be a lot of fundraising and value engineering going on."
Newell said city officials are "very dedicated to Florence" and will look for ways to honor the family in the new library. She wants a photograph of young Florence Ledding to be prominently featured, along with doors original to her house that currently are tucked away from the public in staff office areas.
"It will always be the Ledding Library," Newell said. "We had to take the house down; it was just one of those pieces that didn't fit."
Advantages of new construction
Once people got over their initial surprise about the loss of the historic Ledding Library structure, Newell said, citizens have been reacting positively to the revised construction plans. Two communitywide meetings have been held, so far, and Newell has visited all of Milwaukie's Neighborhood District Associations. A 10-member library design task force includes Mayor Mark Gamba. Another communitywide meeting will take place in late January.
Ledding Library currently uses many times as much energy that should be used for a building of its size, according to the city's 2030 sustainability goals. Spring Creek will be an inspiration for the new library design, along with the light rail and the abundance of nearby trees.
"It's a magical site, it's amazing," Klinger said. "You're creating a more sustainable building."
Project team members have been working with the "idea of having an undulating roof like having the river flowing," which would be represented in ceilings of different heights in different parts of the library.
"We want to use a lot of wood, and we like the idea of it bringing warmth to the project. It can be really cost effective," Klinger said.
Schematic design recently was completed, so development of the new library building's design is only now being conceptualized. The favored floor plan is shaped like a pair of airplane wings, with the central point of the library right in the break of the trees where the Ledding Library's current reading room overlooks the pond.
A 900-square foot community room at the entrance would seat 75 people, making the Pond House unnecessary for events, Newell said. The Pond House will be key for the library in continuing to organize events during construction, however.
On the north wing, a children's room would be separated from the central lobby by a glass wall on one side and face the amphitheater in Scott Park. Currently to get there from the library, the amphitheater is tucked behind a parking lot and Dumpsters.
The south wing of the library maintains that key reading-room spot for adults, and tucks a teen room and a conference room on the 21st Avenue side.
A fountain at the Southeast 21st Avenue and Harrison Street intersection would be in the way of the south wing, said Newell, who has asked legendary Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly to help relocate the fountain for the third time.
Milwaukie code requires at least one parking space for each 1,000 square feet in the library. There are 29 parking spaces planned in the new project, and 38 are in the current lot.
Klinger specializes in library design with a firm that has worked on many library projects in Multnomah County.
"Of any building type, you're designing for everyone in your community," Klinger said. "We want to create a really welcoming focal point for the people of Milwaukie."
Libraries built in the 1950s were more like "bunkers," but now designers are incorporating features like technology, art galleries and natural light to encourage patrons to hang out in the public spaces, Klinger said.
"Right now libraries are more relevant, more popular and more vibrant than they ever have been before," she said.
Klinger predicted that the next technology jump might not happen in someone's garage, but rather in a library.
"It's a ripe place for innovation to happen," she said.
Even with all the technology, teen and children's areas, Klinger's design will make sure there are spaces where people can sit quietly near books to study and read.
"It's important to think about the people who come and still want to have that experience," she said.