Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Director of Libraries, Maria Carpenter, announced today that the City of Somerville has been approved by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) to be placed on a waiting list for an $18 million construction grant to partially fund a new public library in the heart of Union Square. Fourteen other communities were listed, but Somerville received the highest grant award in the state and placed first in the second round of review. Eight more Massachusetts communities received provisional construction grants. Somerville’s high placement on the list means that the City will almost certainly receive funding provided that it meets the MBLC’s criteria, including a the requirement that the recipient community match the grant with funds of its own.
Earlier this year, the City of Somerville presented a building proposal to the MBLC that provided for a new public library in Union Square that would more than double the footprint of the current Main Library at 79 Highland Ave. The state-of-the-art building proposal, which was created with community input through a series of meetings in Fall 2010 and an online survey with over 700 respondents, is estimated at $45 million and includes: greatly expanded community meeting and exhibit space; quiet and group study rooms; green space in the form of an outdoor courtyard and terraces that bring light and air into the building; children’s play areas; enhanced and expanded children’s and teen areas; a 200-seat auditorium with after-hours event access; and a café and retail space. The new Main Library will be fully accessible and be secure, well-lit, climate controlled, and environmentally green. The City of Somerville is currently seeking match and additional funding to fulfill grant requirements.
“This generous award represents a major vote of confidence in our community-based planning process and our long-term commitment to maintaining a vibrant and creative library program. It’s also an exciting step forward in the City’s commitment to Union Square as an evolving civic and business hub for the entire metro-Boston region,” said Mayor Curtatone. “In this round of funding for public libraries, Somerville was the front-runner by more than $10 million, demonstrating the state’s support for our community, and to the ongoing development of Union Square. Our proposal was designed with the input of community members, and with all residents in mind; it includes traditional library elements as well as the latest in technology, green space, and recreational elements for both young people and adults. It will expand on our active living opportunities, arts and performance spaces, and create a civic presence in one of our fastest-growing and most popular business districts, as well as serve as a catalyst for economic activity in the area. A new Main Library will serve as the civic and cultural beacon of Somerville. We are thankful to the Board of Commissioners, Board of Alderman, Library Trustees, and to the community members who made this grant application successful, and we look forward to seeing this come to fruition.”
“This is a rare opportunity that Somerville has been given– to come together and build an iconic civic building– a new Main Library for all residents where they can meet, explore, learn, and dream. This new building will offer a much larger and better-equipped community and educational resource for Somerville residents. I am so thankful to the MBLC for this funding opportunity, and to our Library Trustees, community members and City staff for collaborating over many months to create an initial design that truly reflects our city’s wants and needs,” said Carpenter. As we move forward, additional community forums will be held, leading up to the detailed construction plans. “This is also an opportunity for this administration to leave a lasting legacy on our city. With shrinking funding for municipalities, I cannot imagine that we’ll have another opportunity like this, and I’m excited to be a part of this transformation of our public libraries, and of one of our busiest squares.”
“Though our current Central Library is a great historic building and a community gem, the plans for a state-of-the-art building in the heart of Union Square, especially as it becomes an even stronger business hub in the coming years, are terrific. I’m excited to pursue this opportunity, and look forward to working with residents of all ages as we get this going,” said Ward 3 Alderman Tom Taylor, who also currently serves as President of the Board of Aldermen.
“I’m so proud of how far Ward 2 and the Union Square area in particular has come, and thankful to all of the federal, state, and local partners for providing the necessary support and resources to see projects like this come to fruition in our community,” said Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston.
The grant award provides that the building be constructed in Union Square which, as part of the City’s larger plan to redevelop and reinvest in the Square, would provide additional economic development incentive for the business district.
“The library trustees are enthusiastic about our expanding opportunities to foster literacy, provide access to digital resources, and strengthen community. The new library will support emerging partnerships with local artists and universities to expand programming for children, teens, and adults,” said Mark Howland, Director of the Library’s Board of Trustees. “Mayor Curtatone and Director Carpenter’s efforts on behalf of the library successfully cap over a decade of effort by the City and community to transform the central library into an evolving, state-of-the-art facility that will serve Somerville for many decades to come.”
Funding for the projects was authorized by Governor Deval Patrick and the Legislature in the General Governmental Needs Bond Bill, signed by the Governor on August 11, 2008. While libraries that received a provisional MPLCP grant are guaranteed funding, funding for Waiting List libraries depends on several factors including the state’s five year capitol plan and whether libraries that have provisional grants are able to secure local match funding and move forward with a project.