Conceptual Library Design Plans Unveiled At Public Hearing

Conceptual plan for the Berkeley Heights Public Library. Credits: GRA Architects
Proposed floor plan for the library. Credits: GRA Architects

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -  Anthony Iovino of Arcari & Iovino [working along with GRA Architects] displayed a conceptual floor plan design of the proposed "new" library space at Monday's scheduled public hearing. The bottom floor of the Little Flower school is a "perfect fit" for an "ideal library", said Iovino.

The preliminary plans that Iovino displayed allowed the public to visualize the conceptual floor plan layout of the existing school structure after being retrofitted. The plans included a new atrium with a courtyard in the front of the building with a lobby, service desk, adult sections (with more tables and chairs) to the left and the children's areas to the right of the front entrance. The space includes "Young Adult" rooms and study rooms that are glass enclosed and a larger meeting room. [The final design of the library shall be subject to the approval of the Library.](Click here to see documents.)

Lavinia Boxill, President of the Berkeley Heights Public Library Foundation, was "incredibly excited to see the plans." The foundation has been around for several years and has been waiting for a project such as this to marshal their efforts to fundraise said Boxill. "These buildings and facilities are our town and represent you," said Boxill. "This is a project that we all need to get behind. The library is central and is a resource truly for everyone." The foundation will seek individual and corporate sponsorships. 

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On behalf of the Library, Board President Leslie Kaltenbach fully supports the proposed Land swap. She shared the mission and vision of the library and she believes this project is the best way to fill their vision. 

Iovino identified issues of the existing two-story, 12,175 square foot, library, located at 290 Plainfield Avenue:

  • The building does not meet ADA code (Americans Disability Act).
    • Inadequate doorways.
    • There is no vertical transportation in the two-story structure.
    • The side parking lot is on an incline for getting into the building.
    • The door knobs would need to be changed to lever door handles.
  • There are safety and security issues with monitoring the entrance and areas in the building.
    • Meeting room and storage room are out of view.
  • Asbestos in the attic.
  • Energy efficiency issues due to single pane windows.
  • HVAC is not working properly.
  • Light switches need upgrading.
  • Layout is inefficient.
  • Water infiltration, including sewage back-up which resulted in bathrooms permanently shut off from public use.
  • Needs more tables and esthetic furniture.

After meeting with Library Director Stephanie Bakos, about a year and a half ago, Iovino came up with data for consideration in the design for an "ideal library" relative to the current library. [Bakos is designated as the liaison with the Township and its professionals in connection with the development and construction of the library portion of the Little Flower Property.] 

On average, 250 people walk through the library door every day. Iovino stated that an "ideal library", based on the current Berkeley Heights demographics, should be 13,250 square feet. The space would include employee offices and space for each age grouping including senior citizens, teens to young children.

A resolution for the Memorandum of Understanding set forth for the future exchange of the Library Property and Little Flower Property will be adopted at the Oct. 7 Township Council meeting. The agreement is not binding and does not restrict the parties from negotiating and agreeing to the specific terms and conditions of the relationship and ultimate agreement between the parties.

Contingencies in the Memorandum of Understanding include: (click here for full document):

  • The Township showing the financial ability to complete the exchange of land as well as the development of the Little Flower property.
  • The Township completing the transfer of properties with Little Flower, obtaining ownership of the Little Flower Property, and developing /construction of the library space on the Little Flower Property pursuant to plans to be approved by the Library.
  • The Library is able to arrange for the continuation of Library services, consistent with the Library's mission, at a location and level satisfactory to the Trustees.
  • Township shall work with the Library to obtain reasonable storage space for the Library property during the Transition.
  • The Library shall encourage the Library Foundation to engage in fundraising efforts to assist in the cost of the project.
  • The Library's statutory millage will be used for the operation of the Library during the transition. The millage may only be directed toward the project consistent with state laws and regulations. 
  • The Library shall utilize its own funding for the moving and temporary storage expenses of the Library and its property.
  • The Library agrees to only maintain staff reasonably required during the transition, which shall be funded by the Library.

The next two hearings will be held at the Gov. Livingston auditorium located at 175 Watchung Blvd., Berkeley Heights at 7 p.m. 

September 29 to recap the redevelopment study prepared by Harbor Consultants, the planning firm employed by the township which was the first step in the Little Flower discussion. There also will be discussions and future needs for the police and public works departments along with a review of construction cost estimates.

October 6 to present the draft of the redevelopment plan for the site, the impact of payments in lieu of taxes, a schedule for the project and conclusions on steps needed going forward.


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