ROCKPORT — The Select Board in Rockport unanimously agreed March 24 to engage Portland architects Reed and Company to create a conceptual design for the town’s new library. Terms of the contract are being developed by the town manager to be considered by the board at its next meeting, with the goal of a proposal going before voters on the November warrant.
The ad hoc Library Planning Committee had recommended Reed and Co. from a field of six firms, all of which had presented for one hour each their design and working philosophies to the town, in public sessions.
Rockport shuttered its public library building in November following an engineering report that outlined maintenance issues there. Library operations and the collection moved to temporary quarters on Route 1, in former book publishers’ offices, with the town’s intent to reconstruct a new library on the same site as the closed library in Rockport Village.
Richard Reed, who was in Rockport for his company’s presentation, said March 25 that he looked forward to working with the town. He had been watching Rockport, he said, as its conversation over the past two years about the town’s public library had deepened.
That conversation had included first rebuilding the library on the former Rockport Elementary School site on West Street, then a contentious debate, and public vote, that convinced the Select Board to retain the existing address for the library, but with the possibility of expanding into nearby Memorial Park.
“Memorial Park is ripe with opportunity,” he said.
Reed said he grew up in libraries, where his parents worked.
“I have a passion for libraries,” he said. Beginning with the Denmark library 30 years, the design work there “started a process I’ve never stopped enjoying.”
While designs were not to be part of the architects’ presentations to the town more than two weeks ago, each of the six firms provided images of potential designs.
Reed and Company designs, although preliminary, showed a redesign of the park, which is adjacent to the existing library site, across the narrow Limerock Street. The park in the sketches showed a modest amphitheater, with enhancement of the veterans’ memorials. (See attached PDF for the complete Reed and Co. presentation).
The initial library concept Reed also presented included a three-story building, with street level entrance. (See attached PDF).
Town Manager Rick Bates stressed following the Select Board meeting that designs have yet to fleshed out, and conceptual work lies ahead.
At the March 24 meeting, the Select Board was firm in their appreciation of the Library Planning Committee — “I am impressed by their dedication,” said Chairman Bill Chapman — and its chairman, Jan Rosenbaum. That committee, whose work is now finished, stands ready to reorganize as a building committee, with many members available to continue the work, said Rosenbaum.
As for Reed, the board also expressed admiration for the company. Board members noted that Reed had designed and renovated many libraries (approximately 20, said Reed) in Maine. They include Denmark, New Gloucester, North Berwick, Pittsfield, West Paris and Cape Elizabeth.
“They speak library,” said Select Board member Owen Casas. “They understand what it takes to run a library.”
Board member Geoff Parker said, “Reed brought Cape Elizabeth through difficult times with a new library.”
According to a February 8 Portland Press Herald article, “The second [Cape Elizabeth] attempt at a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion follows a 'more careful consideration of what the community needed and what would fit the character of the town center.'”
Committee Chairman Rosenbaum said that all “six firms showed awareness of the physical situation of the library and the park. We will be able to ameliorate the concerns of a lot of people.”
“Are there fights to come,” he asked rhetorically. “Yes, but we will weather them.”
Chapman said it had been helpful to stream the presentations and meetings live, and archive them.
“Congratulations to Geoff [Parker] for bringing us into the 21st Century.” Parker has spent the winter installing upgraded video and Internet equipment and wiring.
“We are on our way,” said Rockport resident Paul Charbonneau. “I find that heartening and encouraging.”
Residents and Select Board members also thanked Camden architect and resident John Scholz, in abstensia, for his assistance and guidance through the initial architect planning process.
“He has given his time freely, and never attempted to sway us,” said board member Tracy Murphy. “He is invaluable.”
The process now calls for Reed to produce a design with cost estimates, by July, with a firmer design in place by August.
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