The Columbus Metropolitan Library spent $ 35 million to renovate and expand its main downtown library, including a new plaza to connect it to the adjacent topiary park.
But what is known as the East Plaza did not attract visitors or become the community space envisioned when it opened in 2016, so the library is embarking on plans to redo part of the place to include space for concerts and events, plus trees for shade and more comfortable seating.
“We were looking for a more functional space where we could do more outdoor programming,” library spokesperson Ben Zenitsky said.
“Between the lack of electrical capacity and the lack of shade, these things have contributed to the place not really living up to expectations. We want it to be a truly thriving community space,” he said.
The northern part of the square has a small raised circular stage and paths, as well as concrete benches. The southern part of the square has chairs and tables with umbrellas for visitors.
It’s that Nordic space that really doesn’t work, Zenitsky said.
Event hosting is at the center of the overhaul
Earlier this year, the library board awarded a $ 100,000 landscape architecture contract to local firm MKSK, which did the landscaping work for the library during the renovation.
The goals outlined in the first concepts presented recently to groups including the Discovery District Special Improvement District Council include increasing the number of people visiting the place in good weather, increasing visits to- beyond lunchtime, engaging the growing residential neighborhood near the library. and create successful events.
Some ideas include trellises and more trees, brighter colors in the square itself, planters and movable tables and hanging lamps.
Zenitsky said the library has the capacity to house food trucks in space as it is today. The hope is that the reconfigured space will be more conducive to their integration.
None of the concepts are final, Zenitsky said.
A million dollar project would be completed next summer
Rachel Heine, director of library development, said the cost of the changes could end up running at around $ 1 million. Already, Encova Insurance, a neighbor of the downtown library, has contributed $ 250,000, and a fundraising campaign is expected to bring in an additional $ 250,000, with the library picking up the rest, Heine said.
People have seen how important outdoor space is during the COVID-19 pandemic, Heine said. “It’s another way to invite people into the library,” she says.
The schedule is to start this work in early 2022 and complete it by summer 2022, Zenitsky said.
Becky West is a member of the District Special Improvement Council and has seen the concepts.
“The goal is to activate the scene with programming,” said West, who is also the executive director of Columbus Landmarks.
Marc Conte, acting executive director of the Capital Crossroads and Discovery Special Improvement Districts, said the concepts were superb.
“It’s more conducive to both occasional use and planned events,” Conte said.
“The biggest advantage is the shade,” he said.
“ Beautiful space but underutilized ”
Daron Larson lives nearby and makes frequent visits to the main library at 96 S. Grant Ave., which was built in 1907. He said he found the renovations to be incredibly beautiful and enjoyed taking people to see them. .
“It’s a beautiful but underutilized space,” he said, adding that there was a great opportunity to create programming to maximize the use of the space.
“When they first announced the renovation (for Columbus Metropolitan Library), I thought they would take inspiration from Bryant Park in New York City,” Larson said.
Bryant Park is next to the main branch of the New York Public Library and offers areas for people to play chess and other games, as well as concerts, fitness programs, and children’s activities. .
“It’s lively, interactive,” Larson said.
The East Plaza of the Columbus Main Library needs more than a physical facelift, he said. You need a plan to involve the community.
“It feels like a piece is missing.” Larson said.