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Libraries, Tremont

Contract set to deactivate Carnegie South Branch Library building FUTURE OF HISTORIC STRUCTURE STILL UNDECIDED

Contract set to deactivate Carnegie South Branch Library building

FUTURE OF HISTORIC STRUCTURE STILL UNDECIDED

by Jerleen Justus

(Plain Press, November 2013) On September 17, 2013, the Cleveland Public Library Board of Trustees approved a Resolution authorizing Executive Director, CEO, Felton Thomas, Jr., to execute and negotiate a contract with the Sterling Professional Group (General Contractors) for the deactivation of the Carnegie South Branch Library, 3096 Scranton Road.

At a meeting on May 16, of this year, the Board instructed Director Thomas to seek the professional architectural services of Westlake, Reed, and Leskosky (Westlake).  The firm was to develop plans and specifications as well as provide bidding insight and construction administrative services for the South Branch Library Project.

Following “Westlake” submitting the completed plans and specifications, notices to bidders were published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in August.  Upon receiving four (4) sealed bids by September 4, 2013, the lowest bid was evaluated and upon investigating the responsiveness and responsibility of the bidder, Westlake recommended the Sterling Professional Group for the South Branch Library Deactivation Project.  Sterling’s expenditure bid tallied out at $328,800 – the sum of which is being charged to the Library’s Building and Repair Fund.

According to the library’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Timothy R. Diamond, “The Project consists of exterior wall repair, tuck pointing, a new roof, installation of flashing, scupper/downspout replacement, installation of new thru-wall secondary scuppers, foundation waterproofing at the south wall, and the installation of portable dehumidifiers and heaters. (Scuppers are openings in the parapet for the purpose of draining off water if existing roof drains become blocked.)”

Earlier this year, March, 2013, the grey stone structure was slated and posted as “temporarily closed” due to a failed heating system as well as the entire building being in need of extensive and costly repairs.

During a public meeting held on February 27, 2013, it became clear that bringing the Historical Landmark into the 21st Century would not only include HVAC repairs and up-grading the electrical system but would also entail retrofitting for duct work and full ADA compliance.  Another serious concern was that the reconstruction would trigger costly asbestos abatement.  At the time, library officials stated estimated cost of repairs, renovations and preserving the historical integrity of the hundred (100) year old library would be near or more than $3 million dollars.

Prior to locking the doors of the Carnegie South Branch Library, complete staff membership and library services were moved to a makeshift location just around the corner on Clark Avenue and open to patrons on March 16, 2013.  The Cleveland Public Library Board entered into a two (2) year lease with an additional one (1) year option for the temporary space. The build out cost for housing the library at the 2704 Clark location came at a cost of approximately $350,000.

The South Branch Library was well known for shelving large collections of Spanish movies, magazines, music, novels and other reference material in addition to employed staff members well versed in speaking and understanding Spanish.

The 1911 Carnegie South Branch Library was designed by Architect Henry D. Whitfield and built by Steel Mogul Andrew Carnegie.   Currently, of the fifteen (15) Carnegie Libraries   built in the city of Cleveland, only five (5) remain in operation as public libraries.

To date, no decision has been made by the Board as to whether or not the Carnegie South Branch Library will reopen and continue to serve as “the people’s university,” however, per library officials, the option still remains on the table.

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