Methow Valley News, July 17, 2019

Winthrop library plans come into sharper form

BY DON NELSON

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Photo by Don Nelson
Angela Morris of the North Central Regional Library addressed a Winthrop library information session last weekend.

Design is still a work in progress

The proposed design for a new public library in Winthrop continues to evolve but goals for the facility haven’t changed, interested residents were told at an informational meeting last Saturday (July 13).

A sizeable crowd at the Winthrop Barn listened attentively as representatives of Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL) — the nonprofit group that is spearheading the new library effort and the fundraising for its construction — and the project’s architects talked about plans for the building.

The new library will be built on a .81-acre parcel purchased by the Town of Winthrop, on White Avenue near Little Star Montessori School. FOWL is also hoping to acquire an adjacent smaller lot to provide more space for the building, parking and landscaping. Although some private funds have been pledged toward that purchase, FOWL doesn’t yet have the necessary financing to buy the parcel.

FOWL estimates that the building’s costs will not exceed $4.5 million. The state Legislature’s recently adopted capital budget includes $2 million to support the new library’s construction; most of the rest is expected to be raised through private donations.

FOWL will turn the library over to the town of Winthrop when completed. The North Central Regional Library (NCRL) system, of which the Winthrop library is a part, will provide furnishings, staff and equipment for the new building, as well as maintenance, for the portion of the building devoted to library use. Plans now call for groundbreaking in 2020 and completion in 2022.

Current plans call for a 7,300-square-foot building — reduced from earlier projections of around 8,000 square feet — that would include a 6,000-square-foot library area, connected by a hallway to a 1,300-square foot public use space that would be the town’s responsibility. The library portion could be closed off when not in operation, but the public space (including restrooms) could be kept open for a variety of uses. The two spaces would share main entrances.

Earlier, FOWL selected Johnston Architects and Prentiss Balance Wickline to coordinate in designing the new building. Both are Seattle-based architectural firms with extensive experience in the Methow Valley.

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Graphic courtesy of Friends of the Winthrop Library
A preliminary scheme for siting the new Winthrop library includes two public entrances and parking access off of Norfolk Road.

Community needs

The existing library on Highway 20 adjacent to Mack Lloyd Park was always intended to be a temporary site. With less than 1,200 square feet, the library has no room for expansion and is often crowded, particularly for special events. Although small, the Winthrop library has the highest per-capita usage in the NCRL system.

At Saturday’s session, FOWL board Chair Shannon Polson and Executive Director Jill Sheley reviewed the research and community needs assessment completed over the past 18 months to determine the facility’s parameters. Ray and Mary Johnston of Johnston Architects, and Margo Peterson Aspholm of Prentiss Balance Wickline, talked about designs, schematics, materials and other considerations for the new building.

Ray Johnston told the audience that the architects have continued to refine the design “with your help.” The plan calls for meeting rooms, separate gathering areas for teens and younger kids, a “living room” with a fireplace, expanded access to technology tools, and many more books.

Aspholm said the assumed acquisition of the adjacent lot “gives us some breathing room” for the building and its environment. The proposed entrance would be off of Norfolk Avenue rather than directly onto White Avenue. The two main entries — described as the “river” and “mountain” entrances because of their orientation — would provide a dramatic introduction to a building that Aspholm described as “the crossroads for the community.”

The architects said that to the extent possible, they will use local materials that “celebrate” the Methow Valley’s history and natural ambiance. They anticipate a “parklike setting” for the structure, and potential connections to the area’s recreational trails.

Ray Johnston said that the plan is to create a large “clear span” space that doesn’t need posts for structural support.  Several potential designs were presented, with differing rooflines (gable or shed) and building profiles. Lighting, acoustics and heating/ventilation systems have to be designed specifically for library needs, Ray Johnston said.

Angela Morris, director of public services for Wenatchee-based NCRL, was on hand as well. In response to a question, she assured the crowd that all the furnishings and equipment the expanded library will be new.

No additional taxes will be required to build or operate the new library. Town residents currently pay a library district assessment which goes to the NCRL system.

Article originally appeared here