| Debbie Gardner
SPRINGFIELD – The new East Forest Park Branch Library moved one step closer to reality on Nov. 8, when Library Director Molly Fogarty and Project Architect Stew Roberts unveiled the latest plans for the new building during the monthly meeting of the East Forest Park Civic Association.
A $2 million public Capital Campaign – the last piece of funding necessary to complete the projected $9.5 million project – was also unveiled that evening.
More than 30 people attended the meeting, including members of the neighborhood, Association President Beth Hogan, local library staff and Library Director Molly Fogarty, Springfield Library Foundation President Pat Markey, Ward 7 City Councilor Tim Allen, newly elected Councilor At Large Jesse Lederman and the city’s Health and Human Service Director Helen Caulton Harris, representing Mayor Domenic Sarno.
City Project Manager Myron Hatcher, director of Capitol Assets Peter Garvey, Project Architect Stewart Roberts and Matt Blumenfeld, a professional fundraiser retained by the Library Foundation for the Capital Campaign, were also in attendance.
“We are here today to say to you that we have realized what we talked about,” said Caulton Harris, referring to prior Association meetings where she addressed neighborhood questions about the fate of proposed plans for the local library.
The current East Forest Park Branch Library, which closed for four months in 2012 due to city budget cuts, is located at the site of a former video store in a shopping plaza on Island Pond Road.
Caulton Harris called the library project “a tale of two mayors – Mayor Domenic Sarno and [former] Mayor Charles V. Ryan,” explaining that Ryan as president of the Library Foundation and Sarno, representing the city, had worked “hand in hand” to help bring the project to its current point. “And you are going to be very excited when you see where we have come,” she added.
Caulton Harris also praised the East Forest Park Library’s staff for their dedication to the project, saying, “They were the drivers behind this project. They wrote the grant, they agitated and drove this project.”
The result was a $4.9 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and a pledge of $2.6 million from the city of Springfield toward completion of the project.
“We wouldn’t have gotten this grant without your support,” Fogarty told attendees. The needs statement and the use of the library was strog enough to push the city’s grant request up into the top nine proposals that were funded for this building cycle, she explained.
She added the East Forest Park project was the furthest ahead in its process of any of the nine libraries that had received grants.
Architect Stewart Roberts from Johnson Roberts Associates, Inc., unveiled the most current plan for the new facility, which will be located to the left of the Mary A. Dryden Veterans Memorial School on Surry Road. He said these preliminary schematics had been submitted and approved by the Board of Library Commissioners.
“We have a plan that looks good to everybody,” Roberts said, indicating minor revisions would continue until January of 2018, at which point his firm would begin drafting construction documents in anticipation of putting the project out to bid within “three or four months,” with construction expected to start by fall of next year. Construction, he said, was anticipated to take 12 to 14 months, with a projected opening date for the new library sometime in the fall of 2019.
Floor plans and artist’s renderings showed a 17,000 sq. ft. facility featuring separate teen and children’s rooms, a large adult area with plenty of computers and a reading area near a bank of large windows, a video editing and recording studio, spaces for small group study, a multi-purpose event room just off the children’s section, a “café” area with tables where people could gather, and a large community room that could hold up to 100 attendees for lectures or other events. Roberts indicated the community room could be separated from the rest of the library by a movable wall, making it available for use outside of regular library hours.
“Everything will be handicapped accessible,” he said, adding that use of natural light and other energy-conserving design features would be incorporated into the new, sate-of-the-art facility.
Markey, president of the Springfield Library Foundation, introduced Blumenfeld, saying “The Library Foundation is underwriting the cost of his services [as a professional fundraiser] and the cost of advertising, so all the money raised – every penny raised – so that any capital grants and individual gifts – will go to buy computers and equipment” for the new library.
Markey also announced the Foundation was participating in a Community Challenge Grants, where the “Foundation will match every individual gift [to the Capital Campaign] up to $250,000.”
Blumenfeld said he and the Library Foundation had been working on plans for the Capital Campaign for about nine months, and had come up with a goal that, though a stretch, was in his words, “achievable.”
He outlined a number of giving opportunities – from purchasing a brick to naming a table, chair or room after a family member. Markey added that there would be no corporate opportunities for naming in this facility, that everything would be focused on the community.
Dubbed the “Promised Realized” campaign, Blumenfeld said the “goal is to create a true 21st Century learning center” in East Forest park.
“This is a wonderful program from a community perspective,” he continued, adding the new facility would make “East Forest Park a desirable place for people to move to.”
Brochures distributed at the meeting listed an email, email@example.com, and a contact number of 263-6828, ext. 290, as sources for more information about the Promise Realized campaign.