Design work on the new Crozet library has advanced to the point that it will be presented to the Albemarle County Planning Commission this month and subsequently to the Board of Supervisors. The public is invited to react to the plans at an open house slated for Feb. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Crozet United Methodist Church’s fellowship hall. The Crozet Library Steering Committee, composed of architects from the firm of Grimm and Parker, designers of the building, local citizens, Jefferson-Madison Regional Library officials and county staffers, has been developing the design since August. Construction of the building is scheduled to begin in July 2011, but may be postponed in upcoming county budget decisions.
Conflicts over how the lower level on the building on Crozet Avenue would connect to the main library on the floor above were resolved at the committee’s Jan. 26 session. An elevator shaft will be built, but installation of the elevator will be postponed until the time in the future when the library expands to occupy both levels. Officials said that if it made sense for reasons of economy, and money is available, the elevator will be installed at construction. The library staff does not want to have to monitor a second entrance to the building. Creating one would require hiring another staffer.
The elevator will open onto a lobby on the lower level designed to accommodate a flight of stairs as well. The stairs will be built whenever the library expands. Plans now call for a larger area to be excavated and the two lower-floor rooms to be enlarged into spaces about 1,000 and 1,800 square feet each. Their uses are still undetermined. They might be leased as commercial spaces (not as restaurants) or used as public meeting rooms.
The parking lot now has 61 spaces. Committee members suggested that the traffic flow in it be one-way only to free up more spaces and improve pedestrian safety at the library entrance. Designers will also consider how to incorporate a sidewalk in the landscaped island in the parking lot that is on the same axis as the main entry. The possibility of connecting the lot with Tabor Presbyterian Church was raised, but no one has approached the church about it.
In reaction to Architectural Review Board comments, the main door, which faces the parking lot, will now have a canopy over it and a more prominent approach from the new Main Street, including a ramp.
The library will contain 18,300 square feet and include a fireplace in the periodicals section. Five-feet-tall clerestory windows will run down the central axis of the building and fill the library with diffused natural light. Committee members repeated their preference for a large corner window in the library that looks out on the Crozet Avenue/Main Street intersection and opens up the panorama of the Blue Ridge. Suggested in earlier versions, it was not shown in the elevations presented at the meeting, but architects said they would revisit the idea.
The facade is mainly brick with a stone lower course. Committee members supported the idea of decorative brickwork. They noted it will “set the tone” for new architecture in downtown Crozet and they want it to be a good example to follow.
Citizens also pressed for it to be built promptly. Bill Schrader, who heads the fundraising drive that will provide furniture and books for the library, noted that the need to build a new library was originally acknowledged in 1999.
Mac Lafferty and Kathleen Jump stressed the importance of the library for downtown development and pressed for speedy construction. J-MRL director John Halliday noted that a new library will typically experience a 40 percent jump in circulation.
“We want to build a library, the best we can,” said Crozet librarian Wendy Saz, “not build a building and stick a library in it. We’ve been diligent. We’ve given everything a fair attempt, and we’ve come to a wonderful conclusion.”