A brand new, modern designed glass library may be on its way for Westchester Square.
The new New York Public Library branch is part of an overall master plan for the area’s revitalization, That’s edging closer to a reality for 9 Westchester Square, the site of an annex of the Huntington Free Library. The historic, landmarked Huntington building next door will remain and continue to provide programming for the community.
On Tuesday, October 14, Community Board 10’s municipal services committee voted in favor of the library’s plan for a very modern library building on the corner of Westchester Avenue and Overing Street. The full board voted in favor of the proposal on Thursday, October 16.
The NYPL and the Huntington Free Library’s board are currently still in negotiations over the purchase price and other issues, with both parties actively moving forward to make this a reality, said Tom Casey, Huntington president.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca secured approximately $12 million for the project from City Council funds, along with about $1 million from Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and around $2 million from Mayor Bloomberg. The library has been in the works for about six years.
“This was my idea and my feeling that a beautiful new library right in the center of town would be a fantastic thing for Westchester Square,” said Vacca. “It would bring a lot of people to the heart of that commercial area.”
Construction on the 12,000 square foot project is expected to begin in 2016, should cost around $13 million, and is designed by architectural firm Snøhetta. according to an NYPL spokeswoman. The NYPL is expected to come back to the community soon to learn what programs and services it wants and needs, she said.
“The New York Public Library is excited about this important project, which will bring a beacon of knowledge and opportunity to a growing community,” said NYPL vice-president George Mihaltses. “The state-of-the-art, centrally-located, modern branch will offer patrons the key programs and services they need, and will help strengthen and revitalize Westchester Square.”
Vacca sees the library as one of many positive developments he helped fund in Westchester Square, including a revitalized Owen Dolen Park, a new headquarters for Bronx Council on the Arts, and Greenstreets to replace concrete traffic islands. Vacca said that his former chief of staff, Jeff Lynch, was very helpful in developing the plan for a new and improved Square.
Lisa Sorin, executive director of the Westchester Square Business Improvement District, believes that the new modern looking building will provide a nice contrast to others around it.
“This really is going to help anchor the cultural mission for our area,” said Sorin. “The design in and of itself is amazing and very modern, which is a nice contrast to the historical library next door.”
More importantly for the BID, she said that the new library would likely create foot traffic, benefiting local merchants and adding to successful cultural programing already available at the Square.
“If anything it would give us another partner to work with,” she said. “The library offers so much programing. It will feed off of the programing already here and bring in a totally different audience.”
Community activist Sandi Lusk said that the current building on Glebe Avenue is much beloved by the community, and that she is sure the new library would be well used. She added that the current Square library building is showing signs of infrastructure fatigue. CB 10, at its most recent general meeting, expressed concern about the future of the old library building.