CAPE ELIZABETH – Plans are quickly coming together for the proposed renovation and modernization of Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth.

The goal is to have everything in place in time for a November referendum, which would ask voters to approve borrowing $4 million, according to Molly MacAuslan, a town councilor and chairwoman of the Library Building Committee.

This week the committee is expected to choose the construction manager for the project, which calls for re-utilizing the old Pond Cove School, that fronts on Scott Dyer Road.

So far, the building committee has narrowed the list of possible construction managers down to four candidates, including the well-known southern Maine commercial construction firms of Wright-Ryan and AlliedCook.

During a meeting last week, the building committee, which also consists of Frank Governali, Councilor Kathy Ray, Martha Palmer from the library’s board of trustees, and Mary-Kate Williams Hewitt from the school board, discussed preliminary schematic designs with the architects.

In addition, the town’s Planning Board last week held an initial workshop on the project during which the board asked “questions about the site plan and how (it) would comply with the Town Center Design Standards,” according to Town Planner Maureen O’Meara.

O’Meara said the next step is for the building committee to make a formal application to the Planning Board in order to appear on the April 15 agenda. It’s her understanding that the building committee intends to get site plan approval by late spring or early summer so that the public can see exactly what they’ll be voting on in November.

Some town leaders have posited that one of the reasons an initial library overhaul referendum was rejected in 2012 was because there was not a complete set of plans showing what the final product would look like.

In introducing the presentation made by project architects Dick Reed and Cynthia Loebenstein during last week’s building committee meeting, MacAuslan said, “This is an exciting project. It’s not theoretical anymore. It’s real.”

Reed and Loebenstein said their goals include making the newly renovated library energy efficient and sustainable.

That includes the possibility of installing a green roof on the children’s room, which would likely be planted with a hardy plant such as sedum, and using a central skylight and glass doors to bring in natural light.

Installation of a garden and a playground just outside the children’s room was also discussed, along with a suggestion by Loebenstein to install an aquarium in the glass wall separating the children’s room from the main library.

The overall goal, Reed said, is to make the renovated library “very welcoming,” which would include ensuring that the existing building would “harmonize well” with the planned addition.

In order to make the library as welcoming as possible, Reed and Loebenstein said they spent a lot of time thinking about the main entrance lobby and what it should look like.

Right now the two are thinking of creating a glassed vestibule with an extended canopy. Once inside, patrons would go up a set of stairs to the main library where the circulation desk would be prominent under the central skylight.

In the lower lobby and hallway, Reed said, there would be “ample space for art displays,” as well as room for the Friends of the Library’s ongoing book sale.

Another important issue mentioned during last week’s building committee meeting was whether new windows would be needed.

That decision would have to be made sooner rather than later, according to Reed, because new windows would impact the design of the project, as well as its overall cost.

The original structure of what was to become the Thomas Memorial Library was built in 1849 as a one-room schoolhouse on Bowery Beach Road. Then, in 1919, William Widgery Thomas, a former teacher, offered the building to the town for use as a library.

The library was originally dedicated in April 1919, and now, 95 years later, the building committee is attempting to create what the 2012 referendum called a “cultural center,” where books would still have a prominent place, but emerging technology and information systems would also be available and where “substantive community interaction” would be fostered.

A building committee is making plans for a newly renovated and modernized Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth. 


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