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Cleveland Public Library plans to reopen historic South Branch


After closing the doors in 2013 to the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) South Branch building at 3096 Scranton Road in Tremont, the library announced last week that it will reopen the historic 1911 Carnegie building.

“It’s been a process for us,” says Tim Diamond, CPL’s chief knowledge officer. “We’ve been working on this for a while.”
 
The library’s board of trustees decided to close the facility three years ago after determining there were critical repairs needed. “The building was older and some of the major systems had not been updated,” explains Diamond. “An assessment of the building determined there were a lot of serious issues. We were going to repair them when the heating system began to fail.”
 
While a temporary location was set up in a storefront on Clark Avenue, the CPL board hired Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) to engage the community for feedback on what should be done and what services were needed at the branch.
 
“We were not making a decision without finding out what the community wanted,” says Diamond. “There were a variety of voices that were heard.”
 
Residents liked the location and the building’s rich history, says Diamond, explaining that the structure was designed by library architecture firm Whitfield and King and was the eighth branch built with funds from Andrew Carnegie.
 
“It was designed in a very flexible way, with shelving on perimeter walls,” Diamond says of the 8,350 square feet of usable space. “It’s like walking into the study of an old house with bookcases built in. When you look at it, in addition to being a beautiful building, there are all these possibilities for the space.”
 
Nationally-recognized library planning and design firm Holzheimer, Bolek & Meehan (HBM) in Cleveland has been hired for the $3.3 million project. Construction is scheduled to begin in May 2017, with a tentative completion date of March 2018.
 
CPL historians discovered an interesting fact about the South Branch in their research. Diamond notes that one section of the library always appeared somewhat odd.
 
“The rear of it facing Clark Avenue looks unfinished, in a sense, and we never knew why,” he says. “We went in our records and found [the building] was never finished. They intended for there to be an entrance off of Clark to a small auditorium, but they ran out of money.”
 
Diamond says they found a document in the library board’s minutes noting that “when more money becomes available we’ll finish this later.”
 
With the renovations, that section of the library will now include that entrance, with ADA accessibility, and a small addition. “It got the architects really excited because they said, ‘it’s our chance to finish the building.’”
 
The CPL also owns a 50-foot wide parcel of land behind the building, which Diamond says they will determine a use for – either a complete build out, greenspace or a combination of both.
 
The renovation of the South Branch is part of CPL’s Community Vision Plan, in which all library branches will be evaluated for the services each offers to their respective communities by 2019.
 
To continue the community involvement in the South Branch’s future, the CPL will host an interactive design session on Wednesday, June 29 at 7 p.m. at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2592 West 14th St. in Tremont.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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