Everybody dig in!

November 5, 2010

By Tim Pfarr

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KCLS holds Newcastle Library groundbreaking ceremony

The wait for the Newcastle Library is finally nearing a close.

Golden shovels full of dirt get the heave-ho Oct. 20 as members of the Newcastle City Council, state Legislative 41st District and King County Library System board of directors perform the ceremonial groundbreaking for the future Newcastle Library at Newcastle Way and 129th Avenue Southeast. See a video of the community celebration at www.newcastle-news.com/category/videos. By Greg Farrar

The King County Library System held a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility — which will be at the corner of 129th Avenue Southeast and Newcastle Way — under sunny skies the afternoon of Oct. 20.

The library is now concluding the permitting process with the city, and it is now weeks away from beginning construction, which will take about a year.

About 150 attended and were treated to free food and drinks, a performance by the 60-member Tyee Middle School Wind Ensemble and balloon animals from Lolo the clown.

KCLS Director Bill Ptacek; Mayor John Dulcich; project designer Bill Lapatra, from Mithun Architects, which designed the library; and KCLS Board of Trustees President Rob Spitzer spoke at the ceremony, which concluded with ceremonial digging.

Elected officials and dignitaries used gold-painted shovels to toss the first scoops of dirt. Children were then invited to join in, armed with complementary plastic hard hats and shovels.

The library is funded by a $172 million bond measure passed in 2004 that called for expansion and maintenance of the library system. That bond called for a library to be built in Newcastle

In spring 2005, library system officials began discussing a possible joint development with the city at the current City Hall site. However, that fall, the library system secured its current location, next to Chase Bank.

Ptacek said the new site was about twice as expensive as library system officials had anticipated, and for financial purposes — and with encouragement from city officials to construct a mixed-use facility — KCLS teamed up with the developer Lorig Associates to incorporate housing into the project.

However, Lorig was unable to finance its portion of the project, and this spring, KCLS moved forward by itself with a plan to leave Lorig’s space on the south end of the property vacant.

Ptacek said that while sometimes things easily fall into place for a project, sometimes a degree of winnowing must be done to ensure a library is built in the right place and with the right circumstances.

“We understand that this isn’t just a library that’s going to be here for five years or 10 years, but it’s a long-term investment,” he said. “And it’s going to help shape the community and define what the community is, so I think it’s well worth the time and effort.”

Dulcich said seeing the library nearing construction was the highlight of his political career in Newcastle. However, his excitement wasn’t about the physical materials, but rather what it will do for the residents and the city.

“It’s not about the books inside, it’s not about the computers,” he said. “It’s about the people who look at the books, read the books, use it and interact. It’s all about community.”

The library will be 11,500 square feet with 7,500 square feet of plants on a green roof. The building will use radiant floor heating, which channels hot water under the floor to heat the building.

It will also have 20 fixed computer stations and empty spaces known as “cyber bars,” where patrons can bring their own computers and work.

The building also will feature an exterior water-retention tank that will hold more than 10,000 gallons of water. There will be 44 parking stalls, and some will be short-term spaces for patrons just stopping by to return items. An elevator will take patrons from the garage to the library.

KCLS Cluster Manager Amy Eggler will oversee the Newcastle Library. She also oversees the Newport Way and Mercer Island libraries.

“This is really exciting, because it’s a new library and a new community, and in a community that’s needed a library for a very long time,” she said. “In this area, you’ve got a lot of families and a lot of kids. It’s going to be just a really busy, happening place.

“We’re going to have the chance to do a lot of new, exciting things.”

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