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Latest F.C. Library Expansion Plan Spawns Council Doubts

Mary Riley Styles Library Board Chair Brad Gernand (second from left) and consultant David Moore (third from left) were flanked by members of the Falls Church City Council (Dan Sze, far left) and Planning Commission (right) at tonight's City Hall work session. (Photo: News-Press)
Mary Riley Styles Library Board Chair Brad Gernand (second from left) and consultant David Moore (third from left) were flanked by members of the Falls Church City Council (Dan Sze, far left) and Planning Commission (right) at tonight’s City Hall work session. (Photo: News-Press)

The latest plan devised by the patient consultants retained by the Mary Riley Styles Public Library Board of Trustees to provide a renovation and expansion of the library at its current location next to the City Hall/Cherry Hill Park campus continued to raise questions from members of the Falls Church City Council and Planning Commission to whom it was presented Monday night. The latest effort came in response to the Council’s direction to hold the project to roughly $8 million, less than half the cost of the original plan.

Still, the $8 million expansion would add only between 6,000 and 7,000 square feet to the size of the library at its current location, at a price per square foot of $333, way higher than the $220 per square foot cost of the Mt. Daniel Elementary expansion getting underway and of the $210 per square foot cost of an earlier expansion of the Thomas Jefferson Elementary. However, consultant David Moore said the higher cost included the renovations of the existing building, as well, and the added cost associated with keeping the existing library space open while the expansion and renovation are being done, along with other factors. Ruth Rodgers, chair of the Planning Commission, said she thought the deal was “a bargain.”

However, it also did not include the cost of a parking deck next to the site, which when all things are considered would cost more than $3 million additionally. City Councilman Dan Sze said he thought the guidance for an $8 million job was to include the parking deck, too. Sze also said that he was not confident that an expansion and renovation of the existing site would leave the City with a “library of the future.”

The only one at Monday’s meeting to suggest an “outside the box” idea was Vice Mayor David Snyder, who said he thought that the solution lie in acquiring a portion of an office building going on the proposed Mason Row project at W. Broad and N. West Street to house a part of the library would work best.

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