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After being closed for over four months, the District of Columbia Public Libraries announced on Monday that they’ve finally secured building permits for the renovation of the historic Mount Pleasant Library, and are shooting to open in fall of 2011. Meanwhile, as you can see at right, the demolition of the historic sun room on the back has already begun, to be replaced by a large addition.
Since the library closed, cries of protest have emanated from the Nader-founded D.C. Library Renaissance Project, which objects to the removal of the sun room, and has raised concerns about fire safety and accessibility. A study funded by ANC 1C found all sorts of issues with the renovation plans, which DCPL’s architect dismissed. The ANC’s consultant, Nichols Design Associates, fired back in May.
Most recently, the Library Renaissance Project has protested the length and grade of the ramp for seniors and the disabled, rolling out paper to illustrate the increase from 40 feet in the existing building to 120 feet in the plans. The consultant’s final rebuttal argues that in order to fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ramp must be brought to the front of the building.
Library spokesman George Williams, though, tells Housing Complex that the ramp is only 95 feet long—there may be some differing measurements being taken here—and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs signed off on it. Plus, the reason it can’t be on the front of the building is that the Commission on Fine Arts found the addition to be disrespectful of the library’s facade. Because of that, the whole front staircase has been decommissioned. “We didn’t want to have a place where we would have someone who was disabled come in through a separate door,” Williams says. “So that is why we have the new main entrance.”
Sounds like the final word from DCPL, which emphasized how much it has listened to community comments over the two-year design process. “We have taken note of and responded to all questions and concerns regarding the Mt Pleasant Library project,” a release reads. “We greatly appreciate the active involvement from residents of Mt. Pleasant and throughout Ward One; the design has been improved by the community engagement.”