Amherst in hunt for site to house Jones Library during expansion project

  • The town will soon put out a request for proposals for a single site — either in Amherst or a neighboring town — to house the Jones Library when a $43.95 million expansion and renovation of its main building on Amity Street, pictured here, gets underway in February. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/13/2023 11:00:03 AM

AMHERST — Amherst will soon seek bids to rent or lease 29,000 square feet of indoor space so the Jones Library can continue offering its current services from a single site when the $43.95 million expansion and renovation gets underway in February.

In his Sept. 11 report to the Town Council, Town Manager Paul Bockelman said that the request for proposal, when it is published, will seek properties within three miles of the Jones Library’s 43 Amity St. site, properties that are handicapped accessible and have restrooms that can accommodate a large number of visitors, and also provide ample parking.

“It doesn’t have to be in Amherst, but it does have to provide the same services,” Bockelman said.

Library Director Sharon Sharry said library and town officials received clarification from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, which is providing a $13.8 million grant for the project, that an alternate site could be outside Amherst.

The $43.95 million project will enlarge the building from 48,000 square feet to 63,000 square feet and involve demolishing the rear addition that was built in the early 1990s. The project is expected to meet the needs of the community, with a dedicated space for teenagers and improved areas for special collections and the English as a second language program, a new location for the Burnett Art Gallery and room for the Civil War plaques, while also modernizing the HVAC systems and removing the deteriorating and leaking atrium roof.

Late last winter, when town and library officials had been informed that operations would have to stay within town, Sharry outlined a plan to use seven locations spread throughout Amherst to provide the temporary space needed for the Jones Library to continue operations.

That plan was drawn from a study done by Sharry and Colliers International, as the owner’s project manager, showing that there were no town-owned or commercial space in Amherst large enough to accommodate existing services. The locations suggested included an empty office building at 15 Research Drive near the Belchertown line, vacant commercial space at 59-63, 69 and 81 Cowls Road in the Mill District in North Amherst, the former Amherst Boys and Girls Club at 29A Cottage St. in downtown, the North Amherst Library at 6 Montague Road and the Munson Memorial Library at 1046 South East St.

While staying in Amherst would be ideal, Bockelman said there is also a preference to keep the Jones Library in one location during the 20 months of construction.

The request for proposal is expected to ask that the space be flexible and be able to be remodeled by the town, and remain available through Dec. 1, 2025.

The building project has set aside $500,000 for renting or building out space, and $150,000 for moving costs. Sharry has said this will prove more cost effective for the town, as the project can be completed more quickly, unlike during the early 1990s when operations remained in Amherst center.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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