Don't expect to see this downtown.
Don't expect to see this downtown.

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D.C. Public Library was planning to allocate up to 250,000 square feet of space for the renovated version of its flagship location, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Then it solicited public input.

Like the Homer Simpson car whose price tag ballooned as Homer requested more and more doodads, MLK Library will now need a lot more space than anticipated in order to accommodate all the facilities the public has suggested. Nearly twice as much space.

Library officials had planned for the library to occupy just more than half the available space at the 901 G St. NW building. DCPL chose a team of architects earlier this year to design the upgraded building, erected in 1972 with a stark design by famed modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and released preliminary design renderings in May. The intention was for the remainder of the building, including new stories erected atop the existing structure, to be occupied by other, possibly private uses.

Now, however, DCPL foresees the need for about 450,000 square feet of space—-the entirety of the current building, plus a fifth-floor suite.

Following up on input from more than 3,000 city residents, DCPL is now planning to expand its great hall from 13,000 to 20,000 square feet, its adult book section from 56,000 to 65,000 square feet, and its meeting and event space from 9,000 to 30,000 square feet. That includes a new theater-style auditorium, catering kitchen, roof terrace, cafe, and window seating areas.

There may not be as much space left for additional uses in the building, but DCPL spokesman George Williams says there’s still potentially room for private facilities in the floors being added to the top—-to the chagrin of activists like Ralph Nader who have sought to keep the building public.

“Is mixed-use off the table?” Williams says. “No, mixed-use is still an option for the library.”

Rendering courtesy of D.C. Public Library