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Martinez+Johnson and Mecanoo Architecture chosen to renovate the MLK Library

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library is getting ready for renovations
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library is getting ready for renovations
Photo by Professor Metze

Mayor Vincent Gray joined Interim Chief Librarian Joi Mecks and members of the D.C. Public Library (DCPL) Board of Trustees to announce that the team of Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo Architecture has been selected to renovate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.

Martinez + Johnson is a District-based firm that has extensive experience with historic renovation projects, including DCPL’s Takoma Park and Georgetown libraries. Mecanoo is a Netherlands-based firm whose work includes Boston’s Dudley Municipal Center.

“Today, the District takes another step towards giving our residents the great central library they deserve in a way that helps improve both the public’s library experience and our library system’s bottom line. I would like to thank the Library for selecting the best architecture team for the job. I also want to thank all of the people who provided input into the selection process,” Gray said.

“Today, we take a huge step in helping to define what central library service will mean for urban libraries around the country,” said DCPL Board of Trustees member Neil Albert. “We've come a long way since the library began its transformation in 2006. I’m excited for what is yet to come for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library and the D.C. Public Library in general.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library will be renovated to accommodate 21st-century library services. The library, which first opened in 1972, has many systems that need to be updated or replaced. Additionally, many aspects of library service have changed greatly in the 40 years since the building opened.

“The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library is a good library, but it can be an amazing library for the District. Now that we have a design team identified, we can begin to envision the next chapter for library service in the District. Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo will work with library staff and the community on determining what services will be offered in the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. There will be more community meetings, more focus groups, more surveys and more crowdsourcing to come,” Mecks said.

Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo Architecture were one of three finalists along with Patkau Architects/Ayers Saint Gross with Krueck + Sexton and STUDIOS Architecture/The Freelon Group. A Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) composed of library, urban planning, architecture and preservation experts selected the final team, with assistance from an advisory panel, based on the team’s:

· Senior personnel assigned to the project and their experience designing and completing major libraries and obtaining appropriate approvals from D.C. and federal review agencies;

· Approach to managing the project, developing the project budget, managing the costs and schedule while ensuring the final design meets budget requirements and addressing key challenges that are inherent in the project; and

· Ability to meet or exceed the District’s Certified Business Enterprise participation rate of 35 percent.

In addition, community input was shared with the TEC and informed the selection. Such input included people in-person and online participating in the teams’ public presentations on Saturday, Feb. 15; more than 1,200 people posting and discussing over 100 different ideas on the library’s crowdsourcing platform; participant comments in 14 focus groups; and nearly 400 completed online and paper surveys about what residents wanted to see in a renovated central library.

With Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Mecanoo Architecture identified, library officials will begin preparing a contract for approval by the contract review committee of the DCPL Board of Trustees and the D.C. Council. In addition, the Advisory Panel will help the library continue to collect input from the community on what they would like to see in their renovated Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.

Upon contract approval, Martinez + Johnson and Mecanoo will work with library staff and consultants to determine if the project will be renovated as a stand-alone library or as a mixed-use building with additional floors. No decisions have been made on the type or extent of the renovations or additions to the library.

The total cost for the project has not been determined. Early estimates for the total cost range from $225 million to $250 million. The Mayor and D.C. Council have committed $103 million to the project in the capital budget.