Construction on the downtown River Center branch “Library of the Future” will not begin for several months, library officials say.
The planned downtown translucent building is next on the list for construction now that the new Main Branch opened in January, and library officials are still hunting for a South Branch location. Architects have finished designing the 50,000-square-foot River Center branch, but construction documents still have to be finished before companies can bid to build the new library in the spring.
The old library will be demolished, and the new $19 million library will stand amid some of downtown Baton Rouge’s most eye-catching architecture, such as the Old State Capitol and the 19th Judicial District Courthouse. In addition, the building will be surrounded by downtown hot spots like Bernardo de Galvez Plaza and the North Boulevard Town Square.
“There’s no other site in downtown, or in Baton Rouge, that’s really like it,” said Rex Cabaniss, architect for WHLC Architecture, who designed the building in collaboration with Boston-based Schwartz/Silver Architects. “It’s sort of the center showpiece of downtown that’s been developed over years.”
The Metro Council voted in 2010 to replace the existing River Center branch library, after heated debate and opposition by many who thought the money should go toward bettering other libraries. Library Director Spencer Watts said the River Center branch library is not too far behind schedule, and the slow pace is the nature of construction projects.
The new library will include computer commons, technology labs and panoramic views on its upper terrace.
“It’s not a square, cookie-cutter kind of building,” Watts said.
Something not included in the tight budget is parking. Watts said the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system does not have the money to add parking but he hopes the urban space surrounding the library will encourage people to walk and ride bikes.
In addition, Watts said, the Library Board hopes more parking will be available nearby downtown.
Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, confirmed that downtown parking changes could be on their way. He said he is about to complete a study that evaluates where downtown parking is scarce and how to make better use of existing parking.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Library system has been doling out construction projects left and right. The new, $35 million, 126,000-square-foot Main Library on Goodwood Boulevard opened in January .
Meanwhile, library officials are still searching for a new spot to house the South Branch library after the board scrapped plans last fall to build one in the Rouzan development.