Despite being wait listed for state funding to build a new, state-of-the-art library on Bremen Street in East Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino has decided to go forward with the plan and said the city will foot the bill if state funding is not a reality.
The city applied for a grant of $8 million to help defer the $11.3 million price tag on the new Eastie library from the Massachusetts Board Library Commissioners (MBLC).
Last week the MBLC announced that the Eastie project was placed 15th on a wait list of 15 other cities and towns seeking money from the board.
Menino said in a phone interview Tuesday that he is committed to see that the project gets done with or without state funding.
“This project has always been a priority of mine in East Boston,” said the Mayor. “I made a commitment to the people of East Boston and I plan to follow up on my commitment even if the state doesn’t come through.”
Menino said it is important for residents of Eastie to enjoy a state-of-the-art facility that will meet the needs and growing role that a neighborhood library will play in the future.
“We are at a time when bookstores are going out of business so people are looking to libraries as the single source of books in neighborhoods across the city,” he said.
If the city relied only on a state funding commitment it could have, according to sources, hold up the plans to construct the new library in the neighborhood for over a year.
Construction of the 14,600 square foot, $11.3 million library is slated to begin in spring of 2012 and end in the summer of 2013 with the branch opening in late summer or early fall of 2013.
The lack of state funds, which would have made up the lion’s share of funding for the project, threatened to push the project back to 2014.
“It will be tough but we will find ways to keep this project on track,” said Menino.
Last Wednesday, the Boston Public Library held a community meeting to go over plans of the new library.
At that meeting, Deputy Director of the city’s Capital Construction Division Joseph Mulligan hinted that despite the loss of state funding, the Mayor was prepared to move forward with the project.
“The mayor said, ’Under no condition are we going to stop on this project,’” said Mulligan at the meeting. “He said, ’We have to move forward on this.’ The mayor made a full commitment to moving forward on the project without hesitation, and if there’s an issue on reimbursement, we will wait the state out.”
Also at the meeting were architects from William Rawn Associates who will be charged with designing the new Eastie library. William Rawn Associates is the same team responsible for the new Mattapan branch finished last year. There, architects from William Rawn Associates created an up-too-date library facility, an open reading room, and an outdoor courtyard configuration. The sustainable building merges indoor and outdoor spaces and had redefined the experience of the library there.
Architects Mark Oldham and Carla Ceruzzi unveiled a prototype of the Eastie library at last week’s meeting–a sleek non-linear building with a wave-like roof, open floor plans, huge windows that overlook the Bremen Street Park and outdoor classroom and reading spaces.
While most seemed to generally like the new design, some were still concerned whether there will be space at the new library dedicated to the Frederick Leonard King Paintings that grace the walls of the East Boston Branch Library on Meridian Street.
The six paintings to be discussed are the Flying Cloud, Old Ironsides, Junk, Spanish Galleon, Dreadnought (“Sovereign of the Seas”), and the Queen Mary.
It was announced in February that the painting by King would be incorporated into the design of the new library but at last week’s meeting the city and designers were skeptical that the new design could host all six paintings.
The group of paintings, titled “A History of Shipping” were a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project under the Federal Arts Project (FAP) dating from 1935. The FAP was the visual arts arm of the Great Depression-era New Deal WPA Federal One program in the United States. It operated from August 29, 1935 until June 30, 1943. FAP’s primary goals were to employ out-of-work artists and to provide art for non-federal government buildings like schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.
The paintings were originally at the Jeffries Point Branch on Webster Street. When the Jeffries Point branch was closed the murals were put up at the Meridian Street branch.
However, some rumors floated around Eastie that BPL administrators were of the opinion that the paintings would not fit the decor of the new modern library on Bremen Street.
The rumors set off a bit of controversy and lit a fire under members of the Friends of the Library group who organized an effort to ensure the painting remain in Eastie and are hung at the new library.