WEST LOOP – A new library branch planned for the booming West Loop could open as early as January 2019, West Loop officials said.
Shown in new renderings, the yet-to-be named library at 118-122 N. Aberdeen St. will be the 81st branch for the city. The 16,500-square-foot facility will include a youth-focused digital area with a recording studio, a children’s area and five private meeting and study rooms, library officials said.
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill design partner Brian Lee, who designed the Chinatown Library, designed the project. Lee will help convert the existing two-story building — part of the former Harpo Studios campus— donated by West Loop developer Sterling Bay.
Plans for the library were unveiled during a neighborhood meeting hosted by Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), the Chicago Public Library and Sterling Bay in April.
During the meeting, Chicago Public Library Commissioner and CEO Brian Bannon credited the alderman, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sterling Bay for making the new library possible.
Bannon lauded Sterling Bay for donating the building, architectural services, furniture, fixtures and equipment for the project.
“It’s a pretty extraordinary thing to open a brand new library in a neighborhood that hasn’t had a library before,” Bannon said. “If you’ve seen development happening around the city in terms of libraries, it’s all been replacement of existing libraries. It’s a huge undertaking to do a brand new library.”
When completed, the ground floor will have an adult reading area, a children’s early learning space, a children’s reading corner, tinkering lab, and a youth media digital space with a recording studio, 3D printers and vinyl cutters.
The second floor includes a large community space, five private meeting and study rooms and two conference rooms.
The library will also be equipped with adjustable furniture to reconfigure the space as needed, Andrea Telli said.
The Assistant Commissioner of Neighborhood Services emphasized the library will reflect Chicago Public Library’s mission of creating a 21st-century library by nurturing learning, supporting economic advancement and strengthening communities.
“We want to make spaces that can best reflect our strategic plans but also be flexible enough to serve different purposes,” Telli said.
“If someone wants to come in and read a book, sit across the table from someone and have a conversation, or someone might be Skyping an interview. We want to develop a multi-functional space,” she added.
During the meeting, Burnett said the initial name for the library Fulton-Haymarket, which received criticism from some neighbors, had been scrapped.
“One of the reasons why some folks thought the name was unique they are trying to have the library as an identifier of the community,” the alderman said.
“They were trying to put the old with the new, Haymarket and Fulton market. They were looking at the history and the prominence of what it has become with the international recognition,” Burnett added.
The developer previously planned to build the library at the old Coyne College campus, another Sterling Bay-owned site, in Fulton Market. But the developer later abandoned that plan, and considered two or three other sites in the neighborhood, including locating the library inside the new McDonald’s corporate headquarters building, before settling on the Aberdeen site, Burnett told DNAinfo in 2017.
The public libraries closest to the West Loop are the Roosevelt branch, 1101 W. Taylor St. in Little Italy, the Manning branch, 6 S. Hoyne Ave. a few blocks west of the United Center on the Near West Side, and the West Town branch, 1625 W. Chicago Ave. in West Town.
Sterling Bay officials confirmed demolition has begun on the interior of the building and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Once completed the library will be turned over to Chicago Public Library and prepared for a grand opening that will take place in the first quarter of 2019, Patrick Molloy, Chicago Public Library director of government and public affairs, said.