Madison’s Central Library is about to have a more welcoming handshake, according to the latest drawings from Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle Ltd., the design firm in charge of the library’s $29.5 million renovation.
The building is likely to include an expansive glass atrium at the main entrance and a new entrance on Mifflin Street on the side of the new library. City officials, as well as the public, overwhelmingly expressed the need for a doorway on Mifflin in addition to the main entrance on North Fairchild Street, said Jeffrey Scherer, lead architect with Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle.
“We did hear that loud and clear,” he said, “that because of the relationship of the building to the Overture (Center) parking structure and because of grade challenges along Mifflin, we will be having an entrance off of Mifflin.”
The second entrance will improve accessibility, especially for people with disabilities, who have to park at Overture and walk up a hill to reach the main entrance.
Difficult-to-reach entrances are a common problem among older buildings in Madison, said Jason Beloungy, a program director for Access to Independence Inc., an independent living center.
“The older things are, the more inaccessibility you’re going to run into,” Beloungy said. “State Street is a pocket of older buildings. A lot of restaurants and shops are inaccessible to people with disabilities.”
The Mifflin door also is likely to be a point of entrance after the library closes, an element that won’t add costs to the construction budget but could add operating costs later on, said Jeanne Hoffman, facilities and sustainability manager for the city of Madison.
“Meetings are one thing, but there’s also been a lot of talk about designing a library that could be sectioned off where part would be open later in the evening,” she said. “There could be programming around that or not. That’s an operational question.”
Adding foot traffic, particularly at night, to Mifflin will help the city increase safety on a street that can be foreboding, Hoffman said.
One goal for the library design is to make Mifflin more walkable, Scherer said.
“It will enliven and brighten that southeast part of the site at night, which is quite dark,” he said. “The AT&T building on the south side is quite a looming, brooding presence, and you’ve got the back end of the Overture Center and a strange wall that has no openings in it close to the north side of the parking garage.”
While the new atrium on Fairchild also is part of creating a more welcoming feel to the library, Scherer insisted no other elements would be sacrificed in expanding entranceways.
“It’s not a question of having to give something up to get something else,” he said. “We’re simply getting the balance right, which it’s not right now.”
The library will increase from 95,000 square feet to 116,000, but the building also will reclaim space that is not being used now, Hoffman said.
“All of the floors below the main floor are not accessible to the public,” she said. “I don’t think an entrance takes space away from anything, because, frankly, we’ve incredibly underutilized the space.