New designs for Jones Library project in the works

  • Jones Library STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/19/2018 10:00:59 PM

AMHERST — Two new architectural designs for an expanded and renovated Jones Library, one of which would make the building taller but preserve the adjacent Kinsey Memorial Garden, are being developed by the Boston architects working on the $35.6 million project.

The latest project plans come after members of the elected trustees board were informed by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners that the large meeting room, depicted in schematics submitted for review last year, would need to be moved from the library's first floor to the ground level.

Without making this change, a $13.87 million MBLC grant could be jeopardized.

“We probably wouldn't be funded if we don't move the meeting room,” trustee Tamson Ely told her colleagues at a meeting Wednesday.

Amherst is currently fourth on the waiting list among communities seeking state funding for library projects. Other cities and towns, including Hadley and Greenfield, have been awarded money to build new libraries over the past two years.

The plans for Jones Library, located on Amity Street, call for adding 17,000 square feet to the current 48,000-square-foot building by demolishing the 1993 addition, and extending an addition toward the garden and the CVS Pharmacy parking lot at the rear.  

In the original designs, the large meeting room, which would replace the Woodbury Room in the basement, is shown on the main level, with access both from inside the building, as well as from an after-hours entrance from the building’s west side, next to the Amherst History Museum.

The concerns about the location of the large meeting room were first presented at a meeting trustees and Library Director Sharon Sharry had with state library officials at the Athol Public Library in October 2017. At that review, the large meeting room was viewed as being one of too many essential services being delivered from the first floor.

Austin Sarat, president of the trustees, said the request for adjustments from the state is a standard part of the process related to the project.

With this information in hand, trustees met with Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston last month to begin developing the alternative plans. 

One idea is the taller building that would preserve Kinsey Memorial Garden, while the second concept would preserve the existing height of the building. 

“Going up higher does not mean we are going to add six stories,” Sarat said.

Trustee Alex Lefebvre noted that the library can’t be built too high without compromising its historic appearance.

Trustees on Wednesday agreed to reconvene the feasibility and design committee, which has been dormant, to review the new plans, and to make sure the public will have an opportunity to comment.

“We need to give FAA (Finegold Alexander) direction,” Ely said. “There are two alternatives and we need to get input from the feasibility and design committee, and the public.”

With the Jones on the state waiting list, the project must remain within the scope of the building program. This means that the square footage of the project can’t be reduced, no major program can be eliminated, the site has to remain the same and the same level of eligible costs have to be covered.  

Trustees are seeking $15 million as a town match, divided over fiscal years 2021 and 2022, for the project, though it is uncertain when the state library grant will made made.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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