Last Wednesday, the community joined Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Public Library officials to break ground on East Boston’s new library that will be constructed on Bremen Street.
“The East Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library was the first municipally funded branch library in the United States. Now, the East Boston Branch is on the road to being one of the finest,” said Menino of the $17.4 million project. “This state-of-the-art branch library will bring people together from across the neighborhood, providing not only a beautiful facility, but outstanding programs and resources for all East Boston residents.”
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 new branch will serve the entire community with more than double the combined public space of the two branches currently operating in East Boston. Both the Meridian Street and Orient Heights Branches will close once the new branch opens.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina reminisced about growing up in Eastie and how the entire Bremen Street corridor was nothing more than railroad yards, park and fly facilities and other industrial uses.
“I stood on the bridge over Bremen Street with the Mayor and Mary Ellen Welch in the early 1990s and we knew that someday we’d have a park here,” recalled LaMattina. “Now the entire area has been transformed into a beautiful park and now, under the leadership of the Mayor, a new library will further transform the area. I look forward to one day sitting on the outdoor porch of this new library with my grandchildren and show them how far East Boston has come as a community.”
The project includes an open-plan community reading room with spectacular views of the park and the downtown Boston skyline. The brand-new facility boasts dedicated areas for adults, children, and teens, in addition to a quiet reading room, conference room, and community space for multipurpose programs. A reading porch runs the length of the building along the park, providing outdoor space for reading, congregating, and using the wireless Internet network, a feature of all Boston Public Library locations.
“The East Boston community has played a vital role in the development of this project,” said President of the Boston Public Library Amy E. Ryan. “The Community Advisory Committee and other local residents have continually provided valuable feedback services, programs, and spaces most valued by East Boston residents.”
In March it was announced that some of the proceeds from the City’s sale of general obligation bonds would help fund the new library. Boston sold $232.1 million of general obligation bonds to secure an interest rate of 2.46 percent to fund $122 million in new capital projects that included the new Eastie library.
Last year Eastie was put on a waitlist for state funding to build the new, state-of-the-art library. However, Menino decided to go forward with the plan and said the city would foot the bill if state funding did not become 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).
In July 2011, 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 he would remain 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 at the time. “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.
”I can’t say enough about the Mayor for having the vision and determination to make this new library a reality even when there was a question about funding.” said Debra Cave who served on the new library’s advisory committee.
The new library is being designed by William Rawn Associates. 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-to-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 have already unveiled a prototype of the Eastie library that is 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.