LAUREL – After much anticipation from the community and several delays, the county finally broke ground Wednesday on the construction of the brand new Laurel Library. While it may have taken a while for construction to get started, said Prince George’s County Councilmember Mary Lehman, who represents Laurel, the wait will be worthwhile in the […]
LAUREL – After much anticipation from the community and several delays, the county finally broke ground Wednesday on the construction of the brand new Laurel Library.
While it may have taken a while for construction to get started, said Prince George’s County Councilmember Mary Lehman, who represents Laurel, the wait will be worthwhile in the end for county residents. The new building will cost the county $23.2 million.
“I’m a lifelong reader myself. I grew up in Greenbelt where the library is literally at the center of that community,” Lehman said. “So it probably is not surprising that I always saw this new building as something that had to be a true partnership between the county, the city, the citizens and readers.”
Construction on the library, which closed in January 2014, was supposed to have started that March, said Michael Gannon, associate director for administrative services of the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, but the county had trouble identifying a contractor to complete the work within the county’s Project Labor Agreement initiative guidelines, creating a delay.
“It was supposed to start last year. We had some real delays, but now we’re ready to go,” Gannon said. “It was just delays in terms of getting out the contract and procuring the contractor. There were delays on the building and things like that.”
The county projects the grand opening for the library will take place next August.
The county formed a workgroup to gather community input on the building, Lehman said, to decide what the design and layout of the building should be like. The “productive and positive” process created a design that references the city of Laurel’s history.
“It links the historic African American growth community, Emancipation Park, St. Marks United Methodist Church and it does all that by connecting the building through landscape and artistic connections,” Lehman said.
The county wanted the building to be artistic, Lehman said, and a model for future libraries. The Prince George’s County Office of Central Services and architects from Grimm + Parker worked together to design the building and ensure it will be environmentally friendly. One feature of the new library, she said, will be electric car charging stations in the parking lot.
Mayor Craig Moe said the rich history of Emancipation Park and the city of Laurel will be recognized as the development of the building moves forward.
Because the new library will take some land from the park, the county will also construct a new playground and basketball court for the park. The county will also construct an ampitheater.
“The city was happy to partner with the county to keep the library in its same location, which we feel is the best location for it,” Moe said. “The design of the new library will meet the needs of the community for years to come. The added amphitheater to the park will enhance the cultural opportunities for all age groups here in the city.”
To address the concerns in the community about the loss of trees because of the project, Moe said, more than 100 trees will be replanted around the facility.
County Executive Rushern Baker III said he too is a lifelong reader and was pleased to see the construction process begin on the library.
“I look forward to coming back and cutting the ribbon on this,” Baker said.
Baker told attendees at the groundbreaking ceremony that he struggled with early during his childhood, but one of his teachers gave him a book, Black Boy, that motivated him to read. Now, Baker said, he always carries a book in his car. He hopes the new Laurel Library will help county children develop the same passion for reading that he has.
“(Trouble reading) caused me to repeat the first and second grade,” Baker said. “But it also inspired me to pick up a book. And when I picked up one book, Black Boy, it completely changed my life. And that’s going to happen for some young kids and old kids that walk through these doors.”