Sign up for our free newsletter

Don’t tear down MLK, the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board said on Thursday.

The board granted historic-landmark status to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, giving the deteriorating glass-and-steel building a legal protection against getting demolished.

Former Mayor Anthony A. Williams broached a plan last year to sell the building and build a new central library on the old Convention Center site. The board’s decision came a day after the Washington Examiner reported the Adrian Fenty administration’s decision to shelve Williams’ plans.

Now, thanks to the efforts of former D.C. Public Library trustee Alex Padro, the library has been protected as D.C.’s most notable example of modernist architecture; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed it in 1972. It is also the only downtown edifice that bears King’s name.

The city supported the historic-landmark application, something that Padro says could not have happened when Williams was mayor. “For years there was this battle raging between Williams and the library preservation and advocacy community,” Padro says. “Finally, [now] that we have a new administration, and Williams is out of the way…we get the board to approve it.”

Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper says there are no plans yet for any relocation of the library’s services. As for the building, the board will now have to approve any change to the first floor or the exterior. “We don’t know at this point that [MLK] will not always be the library,” Cooper says. “We also don’t know at this point that [it] will always be the library.”