Plans for North Amherst Library addition wow council

  • A rendering by Kuhn Riddle Architects of the possible addition to the North Amherst Library shows how the new wing at right reflects the architectural cues of the original building.

  • North Amherst Library Thursday, January 16, 2020. —File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/5/2020 8:06:14 PM

AMHERST — A one-story addition to the North Amherst Library attached to the north side of the historic building, providing both bathrooms and handicapped accessibility, could be under construction within the next year.

The Town Council gave favorable feedback this week to renderings presented by Chris Farley of Kuhn Riddle Architects in Amherst, that take their design and architectural cues, such as steep roof pitches, painted wood trim and shingle siding, from the 1893 building.

“The library itself is quite an architectural gem, and we wanted to preserve the look and feel of it as much as practical,” Farley said.

Inside the addition, there would be an accessible entry and small lobby, a meeting room for 40 to 45 people, two bathrooms, a janitor’s closet and a storage room, along with stairs and a wheelchair lift that lead to the original building. The main building would continue to be used as stacks for books, videos and other materials, and for reading, including a window seat in the children’s area.

Farley said the original building would also get new mechanical and electrical systems, repairs to the foundation and upgrades to fire systems. “The intention is to preserve the existing building as much as possible and practical,” Farley said.

The project would be funded entirely though an anonymous private donor who has pledged to see the project through to completion. In February, the council accepted a gift of between $750,000 and $1.15 million for the work.

“I love the design, and I love the pitched roof, which reminds me of a former house,” said District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam.

“The design looks beautiful,” said District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said he can go back to the anonymous donor to make sure design and permitting continue, likely taking until the end of the year. Then, the construction bidding documents would be prepared.

There is a possible lengthy permitting process locally, as well as the need for community meetings to make sure there is buy-in from residents.

“It’s a unique opportunity for the town. We don’t get this kind of philanthropic thing very often,” Bockelman said.

The project wouldn’t interfere with a possible road reconfiguration next to the building, with town officials looking at diverting Sunderland Road to pass behind the building and its parking lot to connect with Montague Road. Were that to happen, there would be expanded green space connecting the library to the former North Amherst School and the cow pasture playing field.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring said plans will ensure that options for enlarging the building and reconfiguring the road don’t conflict.

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