What kind of community builds their main Central Library at the end of dead end street with a cul-de-sac? Perhaps a community that has an historic warehouse or mill building that they want to convert to a public use. A planned community would locate the main library on a highly visible road and make it the center of activity in a neighborhood. That is apparently a planned community other than Columbia.
If one reads Exhibits C-1 and C-2 attached to the DRRA, the location of the new library is shown tucked away in the corner bounded by woods and the BGE power lines and Broken Land Parkway. Will Howard County never learn from its mistakes? The Howard County Government Complex and Police Headquarters are not located at the center of activity.
The Circuit Court building is next to impossible to find without signs or a map or GPS–located at the end of a long tree-lined winding road beyond a parking lot created out of a former neighborhood. And then there is the so-called main entrance–past a large vehicle access and support area several stories below, through a narrow colonnade, to a single door into what appears to be a small basement level lobby area. Not like the Anne Arnudel Court building at the center of activity near the Maryland State House. Not like the Baltimore City Courts located in downtown Baltimore. And not like the Kent County Courthouse in Chestertown on the quintessential small-town town square.
So back to the new library. It is not visible to anyone driving on the new roads as they turn the corner. The building is set back from the street–dwarfed by the Food Mart and Retail space. The main entrance would seem to be on a plaza perpendicular to the road. Yet, the ground level street frontage is about as large as the coffee shop shown in the Central Plaza–diagonally across the street from the library.
Not only do I think that the library should be highly visible, but so does the Howard County Library System itself. On October 26, 2004, the Howard County Library Board of Trustees adopted the “Howard County Facilities Assessment and Master Plan 2004-2030” which states:“Any new replacement facilities need to be located in highly visible, frequently traveled accessible areas of the communities they serve. Ample parking is an essential requirement.”
And why is a Central Plaza adjacent to retail space rather than the library that would be hosting events? International Day Food Festival would not be held at the library but across the street. Bands will be playing across the street from the library.
The library should be the central gathering point in the Merriweather Park Neighborhood (yes I am still arguing for that name.) for events, bands, protests. The library should be located on Merriweather Drive with entraces also on the side of the Central Plaza.
However, if the DRRA is approved, moving the library seems to be an uphill quest for the County. Staff will say that the plan is “not a done deal” and that the plan still needs to complete the regular DPZ and Planning Board approval process. Yet, the DRRA states that the
CC. “New Central Library Site” means a site located within the Crescent in the approximate location shown on Exhibit “C” attached hereto and incorporated herein or a comparable site suitable for a New Central Library building as mutually agreed by the County and HRD.
So what happens when HRD declines to “mutually” agreee to another library location? And it would seem that “a comparable site” would be one at the end of dead end street, lacking visibility and not frequently traveled.
Tell the Council to reject the DRRA until the New Central Libary Site is not only central in the community, but central in the development, visible and frequently traveled.