San Diego’s newest library branch will be family focused

The long-delayed project reflects community design input.

August 17, 2017 |

San Diego's newest library branch is being built on the site of the old International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers building on West Washington Street. It should be completed by October 2018. Image: Courtesy of C.W. Driver Companies 

It took nearly two decades, but a design-build team finally broke ground last month on a new branch of the public library system for the city of San Diego.

The 14,376-sf Mission Hills-Hillcrest Harley & Bessie Knox Public Library—named after the city’s former mayor and his wife, whose family is one of the new library’s donors—will be nearly four times larger than the 3,850-sf, 56-year-old branch it replaces.

The Craftsman-style, single-story facility, designed under the direction of Manuel Oncina Architects (which has worked on nine libraries for San Diego County since 1995) and Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects, will include a study space, a computer lab, a meeting room for community events, and children’s and teens rooms.

The children’s area will recall the Hobbit houses seen in the “Lord of the Rings” movies, but with trellises that are wired for Internet connectivity.

“In general, libraries have morphed over the years,” says Andy Feth, project manager for C.W. Driver Companies, which is providing construction management and design-build services for this project. “They’ve become community gathering places.”

Feth tells BD+C that the community played a big role during the design process, which began 18 months ago. One of the community’s concerns was that the library would have adequate parking, which is scarce in San Diego. The new library will sit atop a 30,000-sf, garage, two stories below grade, with 85 parking spaces, or 76 more than the older facility.

This $17.9 million project had been put on hold for years because of the city’s financial shortfalls. It finally moved forward after the Knox and Hervey families each donated $5 million, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. City infrastructure bond funds contributed $10 million, and the rest came from other private donors, which is earmarked for more books, computers, 3D printers and other technologies.

Feth says the library—which is being built on the site of the old International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers building—is targeting LEED Gold certification, and will include energy efficient LED lighting and natural daylight streaming through clerestory windows in a 25-ft-high ceiling in the middle of the building.

The new library is scheduled for completion October 2018, which means it might open by Christmas of that year, he says.

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