Shhhhhh! – Library meeting is long on talk, short on news

September 30, 2010
By

Residents went to the Meridian Street Branch of the Boston Public Library expecting to hear a major announcement about the future of the library branches in East Boston and the construction of brand new state-of-the-art facility. However, they were met with tight-lipped officials.

While the East Boston Times reported last week that a site and architect have already been picked and would be announced at Monday’s meeting, city and library officials said it was bit premature to make such a major announcement until all the T’s were crossed and I’s dotted concerning the project.

Instead, residents were given a tutorial on the library’s process to this point and what Eastie can expect over the course of the next three years as a new library is constructed.

Some who attended Monday’s meeting felt the cat was already out of the bag and that library and city officials at the meeting should have just announced and moved forward to put the community at ease over the site location picked by the city.

Rumors were abound well before Monday’s meeting and last week’s Times article that the former NStar parcel on the Bremen Street park, with its proximity to two Blue Line train stations and adjacent park land, was the site chosen by the city.

However, officials refused to confirm the location and architect although many connected to the project, which included a community advisory committee made up of several residents, already knew the location to be the NStar site and the architect to be William Rawn Associates.

It seems there was some fuss over making the announcement Monday until the process has moved a bit further down the line. However in Eastie it has long been know that either the NStar site or a Massport owned parcel on Neptune Road were one of four locations being considered for a new branch that would replace the Meridian Street and Orient Heights branch libraries.

Furthermore, the city has already submitted a land acquisition request for the site and accepted a bid from the architect and is in the process of finalizing contracts is both cases–two developments that can be easily discovered by any member of the public doing a bit of investigating into the project.

Even the Friends of the Library thought these two major developments would be discussed at Monday’s meeting and advertised the meeting as the moment the public would find out the who, what, when, why and how of the entire project.

Although officials at Monday’s meeting stopped short of announcing the site and architect–two major developments the public thought they would hear at the meeting–they did conirm they are in the midst of the land acquisition and finalizing the architect’s contracts. This means that a site has been chosen and architect’s bid awarded by the city.

“There’s one site that seemed to rise above the others,” Christine Shawnhart BPL’s director of branch libraries  would only say. “We are very close to announcing were the site will be.”

Shawnhart also said that the site will be easily accessible by the MBTA and will have parking.

As for the unofficially chosen architect, Shawnhart said that the city wanted an architect that had previous experience building libraries.

“We did not want to have an architect that would have to learn on the job,” she said.

William Rawn Associates was responsible for the development of the Mattapan Branch Library, which was completed in 2009.

In the end, BPL President Amy Ryan said at the meeting that Eastie’s new library will be one that reflects the needs and wants of the neighborhood.

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