City Poised For $18 Million Grant to Build Union Square Library
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners put a large Somerville library project on its list of priorities. If built, the Union Square library would replace the current Highland Avenue building.
Somerville is in line to get an $18 million grant from the state for a new main library in Union Square, the city announced Tuesday.
According to the announcement, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners added Somerville to its waiting list for a construction grant to build a new library.
Unlike a college admissions waiting list, the Board of Library Commissioners' list is more of a solid commitment, said Thomas Champion, a spokesperson for the city.
In order to receive the grant, Somerville must come up with a solid plan for funding the whole project, which is projected to cost $45 million.
The city will look at all options, including public-private partnerships, bonding and further grants, to come up with the money, said Champion.
If the project is eventually taken off the waiting for the $18 million, the city will have six months to demonstrate it can secure all the necessary fudning, he said.
Plans still developing
Then there's the question of where the new library will go. Champion said the current idea is to build it along Washington Street, next to the police station, around where Ricky's Flower Market is. Depending on where it's located, some things, such as Ricky's, might have to move, according to Champion.
However, he added it was "premature to talk about having to relocate anybody."
Double current library's size
The new library would more than double the footprint of the current main library on Highland Avenue, according to the announcement. It would include community meeting and exhibition space, study rooms, an outdoor courtyard and terraces, children's play areas, a 200-seat auditorium, a cafe and retail space.
The new facility would replace the Highland Avenue building as Somerville's main library, Champion said. He added there were no concrete plans for what would become of the current library, but said it could become a resource for Somerville High School or City Hall, both of which are next door.
The city's announcement said the city's proposal to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners came after a series of public meetings in 2010 and an online survey that received more than 700 responses.
The Somerville Board of Aldemen issued an order in May 2011 approving preliminary plans for the library and authorizing the Somerville Board of Library Trustees to seek grants.
Part of developing Union Square
"This generous award represents a major vote of confidence in our community-based planning process and our long-term commitment to maintaining a vibrant and creative library program," Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said in the statement, adding it demonstrates "the state's support for our community, and to the ongoing developmnent of Union Square."
"This is a rare opportunity that Somerville has been given—to come together and build an iconic civic building—a new main library for all residents where they can meet, explore, learn, and dream," said Maria Carpenter, director of libraries, in a statement.
The Board of Library Commissioners publicly issued its new list of grant communities in May. Champion said the city waited off on announcing the news until it was further along in the planning process for fiscal year 2013.
Somerville approved a significant rezoning of Union Square in 2009 in anticipation of the Green Line Extension and transit-oriented growth it might bring. A large Union Square library would likely be a centerpiece of new development in the area.