Arlington Celebrates Groundbreaking of $30 Million Downtown Library
By Susan Schrock
Posted on May 31, 2016, May 31, 2016

After years of planning and public input, city and community leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of the $30 million George W. Hawkes Downtown Library in downtown Arlington on Tuesday.

The 80,000-square-foot library, whose design was guided by the Central Visioning project that the City launched in 2009, is designed to provide cultural, recreational and learning opportunities for youth, seniors and families.

The three-story building will incorporate spaces for children and teens that are conducive to learning and creating, a literacy center for new adult learners and GED preparation, more space for collections, more reading areas, an extensive computer lab with nearly 140 computers, and community meeting spaces. Built-in flexibility will accommodate future technology needs and space requirements for library programming and individual and group study. An outdoor plaza in front of the library, which is also expected to feature a rooftop garden, will add leisure space to the downtown area.

"A library is always thought of a place where people go for books. It's so much more today,"Mayor Jeff Williams said ."The thing I'm really excited about is the sense of community we'll have. It's a place where our residents can learn about their city. Where a new mom and dad can connect with other parents in story time. Where students meet and study together, where friends can meet and visit in a comfortable and unrushed atmosphere and where people come to collaborate about new jobs and new business opportunities. That is the vision of the new library."

Arlington Celebrates Groundbreaking

An artist rendering of the future downtown library.

The library, designed by the Library Architecture division of Dewberry architects, is expected to open north of City Hall in spring 2018. Construction is set to begin in July.

Public Libraries Director Yoko Matsumoto said the future library will script a new chapter in Arlington's history.

"We needed to build a library that would support the new technologies that are coming out. Since technology is an integral part of many people's lives, we needed to make it an integral part of this library system,"Matsumoto said. "We are going to integrate it to a lot of the programming we do and the social spaces so people can come to the library and connect to the world through our technology. "

The project is largely funded by certificates of obligation, which are repaid through property tax revenue, as well as a $4.1 million grant from the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation and a $1.3 million contribution from the Parks gas well fund.

But fundraising for the library is still ongoing.

Earlier this year, the Arlington Library Foundation launched the Dream: Central capital campaign to raise $4 million in private donations still needed to help pay for furniture, fixtures and the latest technology for the future library. So far, about $600,000 has been raised, Matsumoto said.

Click here to view renderings of the future library.

The future downtown library aligns with the City Council's priorities to Support Quality Education, Champion Great Neighborhoods, Invest in Our Economy and Put Technology to Work.

As part of the downtown library project, the City will also build a 6,500-square-foot facility for City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, library programming and other public meeting space needs. The new state-of-the-art meeting facility, which will replace the existing 35-year-old Council Chambers attached to City Hall, will better meet the City's accessibility and technology needs.

Until the new facility opens, all future Arlington City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission evening meetings will be held in the City Council Briefing Room on the 3rd Floor of Arlington City Hall, located at 101 W. Abram St.

Arlington Celebrates Groundbreaking

The former George W. Hawkes Central Library closed in 2014 and was demolished in 2015.

Arlington residents said goodbye to the former George W. Hawkes Central Library at 101 E. Abram Street in December 2014. After an extensive study, engineers determined the 40-year-old facility's existing conditions hindered its ability to accommodate the future needs of the City. The building was demolished in 2015.

Most of the Central Library collection is stored in a warehouse but is still available to check-out through requests. Residents can find the newest materials at the library's temporary downtown service location, Central Express, at 200 N. Cooper Street.

On the site of the former Central Library, a mixed-use development known as 101 Center is under construction. The development, expected to open next year, will include high-end residential units over a ground level of retail, restaurants and loft office space. The project will also include a structured parking garage with ground level public parking spaces.

101 Center is a partnership between the City and a private development group headed by Catalyst Urban Development, the project developer.

"How fitting that today we break ground on a project that is surrounded by construction cranes, orange barrels, detour signs all the the downtown area,"said District 5 Councilwoman Lana Wolff, whose district includes Downtown Arlington. "It tells us that progress is evident."

Williams commended former Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck and the City Council's forward-thinking, support and vision for 101 Center and the future downtown library.

"They dreamed of not only having beautiful mixed-use development, bringing more people to live downtown, to attract new young talent, to keep our UT Arlington graduates here and create more happening downtown but they also brought forward the new dream of the library . a new dream in which it is a learning center, the center of the community,"Williams said.

Click here to watch an Ask Arlington segment on the future library with Public Libraries Director Yoko

Downtown Library, Support Quality Education
Headlines, Library, News