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White Rock residents comprised the majority of those who turned out on Thursday to weigh in on the location and conceptual designs for the White Rock Library.
“The really big topic of this meeting is, where are we going to put the building? Because there are options on the Piñon Park site,” said Mark Rohde, principal and architect for RMKM Architecture. “So we’ve recorded a number of design criteria to give people some judgment criteria about how to think about the sites. Every option always has challenges, but then some have more opportunities than others.”
RMKM provided three options, each sited at different locations in Piñon Park and each showing potential architectural features. Sixteen of the 18 people who left comment cards endorsed Concept A, which places the library on the corner of N.M. 4 and Sherwood Boulevard. That was also the location favored by the Library Board and the White Rock Master Plan Implementation Committee (WRMPIC).
“I think the corner spot at State Road 4 probably captures the original intent of the White Rock Master Plan, which was to kind of anchor that intersection,” said Community Services Director Charlie Kalogeros-Chattan. “And I think the visibility from State Route 4 is really dramatic if it’s on that corner.
“Part of the whole goal of the White Rock Master Plan is to get people to slow down and realize there’s a community here. And I think if you put the library on that hill, it’s going to achieve that.”
WRMPIC Chair Dennis Erickson, who helped develop the White Rock Master Plan, agreed.
“It’s pleasing and logical and the connection with the current youth center is good. It’s very compelling,” Erickson said. “So there’s actually kind of a sense of integration and synergy.”
Residents also like the way Concept A integrated the library with the youth activity center, which is being upgraded as part of this project. Concept A joins the two with an amphitheater. Connecting the two with a basketball court, an aspect of Concept B, received a negative review.
Others liked the fact that Concept A is the least disruptive to Piñon Park, does not encroach on existing facilities and would draw attention with its high visibility from N.M. 4.
Kalogeros-Chattan said that visibility would be useful in attracting tourists.
“Maybe less now with Smart phones, but people that are traveling come into the library and use the free computers to do their email,” Kalogeros-Chattan said. “People who are on the road a lot know to look for public libraries because of all the different services they provide.”
Concept A meets many of the key selection criteria: efficient land use, incorporating views of the surrounding landscape, oriented to take advantage of southern exposures, minimal disruption to Piñon Park during construction and it reinforces the WRMP. The location also requires minimal site development to prepare the building foundation.
The concept utilizes existing infrastructure such as the parking lot and the close proximity to the youth activity center, leaving more money available for the building itself.
The one disadvantage to the site is that overhead power and communication lines are on the critical path of the schedule and must be relocated before construction can begin.
Concept B, set in the center of Piñon Park, would not have that disadvantage, but it does call for the relocation of the basketball court, is not as visible from NM4 and the sewer line for the youth activity center would have to be relocated. The site also presents topographical challenges, which would have to be resolved by cutting into a hillside, raising the parking lot with fill material or elevating the building, which would require stairs and ADA ramps.
The advantages of Concept B are that overhead lines could be relocated later in the project and the site could be designed for storm water retention. It also aligns the entrance with Longview Drive, but that also adds costs to building infrastructure and increases traffic along the playground area.
Concept C would be sited next to the arroyo on the east side of the park, and would incorporate the arroyo into the design features. There would be minimal disruption to existing facilities and main entry would be relatively flat, an advantage for pedestrians.
All three design options incorporate an open floor concept so the library can maintain minimal staffing, have large banks of windows to capitalize on views and include group study areas, a community room and youth and teen areas.
Library manager Steven Thomas was pleased with the response.
“It’s just been a really good discussion, and from my perspective, a really good turnout,” Thomas said. “It’s also great to see how passionate and supportive people are and how many library users we have coming in.”
Library Board Chair Thad Hahn is hoping to see even greater public input.
“The library board is really interested in getting a lot of feedback from the citizens, and we’re going to have a lot of special meetings. This is just the first one,” Hahn said. “We’d love to see a lot more people at the meetings.”
Project Manager Anthony Strain is asking for additional feedback before the next library board meeting on March 3. Charrettes of the design concepts will be on display in both libraries, and Strain is working to get concepts posted on the county’s projects webpage.
To weigh in, contact Strain at email@example.com. Input received before Feb. 25 has the best chance for inclusion at the next board meeting, but Strain will accept feedback at any time.
The next community forum is at the White Rock Town Hall on March 6, time TBD.