Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tenley Library Update

As posted to the Tenleytown Listserv:

From: Edward Cowan

Construction of a new Tenley-Friendship branch of the DC Public Library has been severed from the proposed remodeling of the Janney Elementary School. As a result, it looks like ground-breaking for the new library will occur in late summer or autumn, with March 2010 a target date for opening the building to the public.

The Tenley branch was closed as antiquated and in need of replacement at the end of 2004. An initial design for a new branch, although paid for by DC Public Library, was rejected, one reason that the replacement process has dragged on so long.

Now, the Public Library's director, Ginnie Cooper, her staff and their architects are working on a new design and are optimistic that the building will be finished about two years from now. Allow some weeks for installing books, computers and materials and an opening towards the end of March looks possible, DCPL reckons.

Cooper and senior members of the Library's Board of Trustees and staff met with the deputy mayor for economic development and planning, Neil Albert, in mid-January. Cooper brought with her the chairman of the board, John W. Hill, and Richard H. Levy, chairman of the DCPL construction committee. As Albert knew, both men are well connected politically.

Albert, reminded of community frustration with the Tenley branch's being closed so long, agreed to sever the library from the Janney project so that it could be rebuilt with less delay. Albert's office had left open such a split in its request for bids, although it also contemplated—and was thought to lean towards—joint development, as originally proposed by the Roadside Development group.

The library sits on the southwest corner of Albemarle Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW. The school is its immediate neighbor to the west, on Albemarle Street. Roadside contemplated layering condo units on top of the library, with parking under the Janney soccer field.

That entangled the library project in many issues, such as "affordable" housing units, underground parking and shrinkage or relocation of the soccer field. Inevitably, some neighbors, including Saint Ann's Church, voiced objections.

Sorting all that out could take a couple of years, delaying construction of the new library. Such delay now seems to be avoided. Eric Scott, a project manager for Neil Albert, posted on the Web on Monday a declaration that any proposal for Janney must contemplate "independent development of the Friendship Library site. Any proposal that include[s] a development program that integrates the Library within the larger redevelopment footprint will no longer be considered responsive." (See

The Public Library expects to finish the design by May. It is already looking for a construction manager, preparatory to inviting bids. It announced in December that it expected ground-breaking to occur in September. Officials said that could occur as early as August, or might slip to October.

The budget for the branch is $14,500,000, including books, equipment and materials. "We think that it is sufficient," Cooper said, "to build the library that we want to give the community."

These responses say it all:

"shortsighted, sad, anti-community building, waste of an opportunity."


"This community had such a wonderful opportunity to provide our people a great library and our children and improved school on a fast timetable with more capital than either project could accomplish along.
I have two children who, unfortunately, will now be forced to attend a school without enough space for its students and crumbling infrastructure. What even more depressing for me and other families in this community, is that our kids will graduate before they'll be able to check a book out of the library."

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