The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board awarded a certificate of appropriateness for the design of the new Crozet Library at its April 4 meeting, removing a major hurdle to efforts to get the library built while construction prices remain low.
The ARB took only a few minutes after reviewing plans for the library’s parking lot to approve those. ARB members were concerned to see how visible the lot would be from Crozet Avenue, and the answer was it will not be because of the difference in elevation. The 58-space lot is slated to built first since money for it is already set aside. Several large oak trees will be removed to clear the area for it as well as the temporary storm water detention basin that will hold runoff until the permanent storm water drains for downtown are complete. That project is due to start this summer and will require four months to finish.
Crozet Community Advisory Council member Bill Schrader, who chairs the fundraising drive that will raise money for books and furnishings for the new library, reviewed the history of the project since its inception in 1999 and urged ARB members not to introduce further delays. “Construction bids for [similar projects] are coming in 25 percent below earlier estimates. We want to take advantage of the rear end of the downturn.”
“We can save money if we move now,” agreed Jefferson–Madison Regional Library Director John Halliday, who noted that the new Crozet library will be the first built in Albemarle County in 30 years and that meanwhile virtually all neighboring counties have built modern libraries.
The ARB first looked over library plans in November of 2009 and examined the same drawings again in February and, finding little changed, gave discouraging comments. But meanwhile the project had been put on hold by the county. Given that review, library officials were concerned that the ARB would prove hostile to the latest version of the library’s design, but the ARB was instead pleased. Revisions removed ornamental features on the building and emphasized linear elements, such as removing the vertical stone work on the building’s tower sections and limiting it to the foundation level. Previously, the ARB had also questioned the scale of the building.
Architect Melanie Henigan of Grimm and Parker Architects of McLean described the revised design. “We’ve developed a Craftsman-style aesthetic with a muted simple palate [of colors.]” she said.
“I have huge applause for you,’ said ARB member Charles Lebo, who was joined in his praise by chair Fred Missell.
“I’m overjoyed at where you’ve come,” added Bill Daggett. “This will be a tremendous addition to Crozet.” Nonetheless he advised Henigan to look again at window divisions.
ARB members were pleased with the selection of brick named Jefferson that blends reds and grays and thus coordinates with the stone level.
“This is a beautiful building for downtown Crozet. It’s more traditional but it’s not locked into the 19th century. The upper level is an elegant modern façade,” observed Bruce Wardell.
While the meeting had been slated as a preliminary review, ARB members were so satisfied they passed it as a final action, requiring only that the building’s windows meet a 7 percent reflectivity standard.
Henigan said that standard would be tough to reach while also aiming to limit the build-up of sun-caused heat in the building—which is being to designed to meet LEED environmental standards—but that it is doable given modern glass technology.
The ARB also vacillated over whether it needed to see a larger sample of the brick and Henigan said she would invite them to the site later to confirm that it had been chosen well.
Henigan will now proceed to complete drawings sufficiently detailed to go out for construction bids, a task she estimated will take at least six weeks. Bids could be sought in early summer. She estimated that bids could range from $6.5 million to $8.5 million. Had it been bid a year ago, she said, it could have been built for $6.5 million.
“We’re very happy with the final expression of the building,” Henigan said. “This building will have extraordinary views and we have a high percentage of glass.”
She said the library will require 15 to 18 months to build and that the downtown storm water system will have to be in place in order for construction to proceed.