Design team at work on final concept for new Blaine library

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After the third of three public input meetings, the design team of King Architecture and Johnston Architects is at work on a final design concept for the Blaine library, which they’ll reveal next month.

At a January 14 meeting, the architects presented two designs to a crowd of about 35 people who showed up despite temperatures in the teens and snow in the forecast. The designs are currently on display at the Blaine Library, at 601 3rd Street.

Both designs were a little less than 9,000 square feet and included most, if not all, of the design elements that attendees of previous design meetings prioritized. Compared to the current library, both designs include more room for books, more quiet reading spaces, bigger spaces for meetings and educational gatherings, more staff work space and more infrastructure for computers and other technology. They both have separate teen and children’s areas.

Both designs are entirely new construction. Incorporating the current building, a converted public works building, would be more expensive than starting fresh, the design team said. 

The designs differed stylistically. One features a window-lined reading area in the shape of a boat hull. Many meeting attendees liked the look of it, and many thought the more straightforward, rectangular layout of the other design would be more functional.

After a presentation, meeting attendees placed stickers on the design elements they liked and discussed the two concepts with the designers and Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) officials.

A fireplace in one of the designs drew a lot of discussion. Some appreciated the ambience it provided, while others thought it was a waste of space better used for seating, books or a window. 

“The fireplace has been a hot button issue,” said Tim Faber, with King Architecture. “On a day like today it would be nice. The rest of the time, maybe it’s unnecessary.”

What’s next

The design team will present a final design concept at the next scheduled meeting, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on February 11 at the Blaine Senior Center at 763 G Street.

“Our next task is to digest everything we’ve heard tonight and really to also be critical about both of these two schemes in light of comments we heard,” said Ray Johnston of Johnston Architects, at the meeting. “We may come back with something that blends them a little bit, that takes the best from both and comes up with something a little bit different. That might work, or it might be that one gets enhanced a lot more.” 

After February 11, some design elements such as shelving and some interior walls could change, but any major changes would require spending more money on design. Also, WCLS will be working on getting an accurate final cost estimate at that time.

WCLS is making plans to raise money to build the library through a combined property tax levy for both the Blaine library and the Birch Bay library project. The WCLS board won’t decide on the levy until it has an accurate cost estimate for the Blaine library, which will likely be in March, said Michael Cox, WCLS deputy director.

At a January 21 WCLS board of trustees meeting, Cox said the cost range he’s heard from the design team is $480 to $680 per square foot, or around $6 million at the high end.

The current Blaine library is 5,400 square feet and has been in its current space since 1988. In that time the population of Blaine and the surrounding area has more than doubled. Friends of Blaine Library has been raising money toward a new library for at least a decade, and is funding the design process.

Learn more at wcls.org/blaine.

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