A New Ward 5 Woodridge Library in the Pipeline

By Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

Last night I attended what is sure be the first of many community meetings regarding the reconstruction of the Woodridge Library (1801 Hamlin St NE (corner of RIA and 18th NE)).  If you haven’t mapped out DCPL’s locations recently, allow me to summarize: the Woodridge Library is not remotely near any other library (2.5 miles to Shaw), so if you live in Woodridge, Langdon, Brentwood, or Brookland, you should care about this.

Photo Courtesy of Jaime Fearer


  • Chief Librarian, Ginnie Cooper
  • Director of Capital Construction, Jeff Bonvechio
  • Intergovernmental Affairs Officer, Archie Williams
  • Communications and Community Outreach, Martha Saccocio
Back in the early 2000s the powers that be decided that all of DC’s libraries needed to be modernized.  The order of redevelopment and funding for each project was determined by DC Council in 2004-2005.  Woodridge was plopped at the back of the line, and initial plans were to start the modernization effort in 2010.  In the mean time 13 other projects have been undertaken to modernize DCPL facilities in the District.  Enter Mayor Fenty, who pulled funding for the Woodridge renovation in 2010.  Then enter Mayor Gray, who reinstated Woodridge in the capital budget.  So, we’re behind schedule, but at least we’re getting a new library.  Thank you Mayor Gray.
The first step DCPL took was to determine whether Woodridge would get a renovation or a total rebuild.  To make this decision DCPL commissioned a Building Condition Assessment and a Cost-Benefit Analysis.  The assessment scores a library on a scale of 0-100.  The Woodridge Library scored a 24.  In layman’s terms: our library is a hooptie – from the HVAC to the electrical system, to the out-of-date ADA compliance.  Given the remarkably low score, DCPL has decided to demolish the existing library and build a new one.
The Woodridge Library project is budgeted and fully funded at $16.5M (over several years). $12M covers hard construction costs, while the rest goes to design, project management, fixtures, and interim space costs.
  • An RFP was issued on Nov 28 2011.
  • 20 proposals were received by Jan 8 2012.
  • An internal evaluation of the proposals will be conducted and completed by DCPL in February 2012.  From there the top 3-5 firms will be identified.
  • The top firms will be asked to make presentations to DCPL’s evaluation committee in late February/early March.  It’s not exactly clear who is on this committee, but it will include two members of the public.  Sharon Turner, President of the Friends of Woodridge Library, was selected by former Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.  A second person will be selected by Vincent Orange some time next week.
  • Once the committee selects a design contract, that contract will go to the DC Council for approval in mid/late March (it needs approval because the contract is worth more than $1M).
  • The specifics of the design process will be hashed out from spring through late fall, and will involve quite a bit of community engagement (assuming this is done right).
  • In late 2012 or early 2013 the library collection and staff will move to an interim facility.  The facility needs to be 3000-5000 sq/ft and could be a storefront space.  (Hello, Rhode Island Avenue…)  It’s also possible that DCPL will lease a 4200 sq/ft modular space.
  • The construction process will start in Jan 2013 and is predicted to last 15-18 months.
  • If all goes according to plan, expect ribbon cutting by Fall 2014.
  • The current building is 19500 sq/ft (gross, counting furnace space, etc.).  The new library is slated to be 22500 sq/ft.  It remains to be seen whether the library will remain one floor or expand upward.  When I asked whether there would be a mixed use component, as has been done in other parts of the city, the notion was pretty much shot down.  (I will still bite some ankles before I let that idea die…)
  • When I asked whether the design will interface with Langdon Park, which forms the southern boundary of the Woodridge Library, DCPL was quite enthusiastic about the idea.
  • The redesign will focus on space that is flexible, welcoming, and open.  Check out the list of “Completed Projects” to get a sense of where we are probably going with the aesthetics.  The new libraries are all modern, airy, and open.
  • Other details:
    • The new building should have a 50 year lifespan (at a minimum)
    • Space for 80K books (minimum)
    • 200+ reader seats
    • Technology: 24 adult computers; 8 for teens; 8 for children
    • Meeting room that can hold at least 100 people (in chairs)
    • 2 conference rooms that will hold 12-16 people (can be reserved thru library webpage)
    • Study rooms (4-6 rooms, hold at least 2 people)
    • Children’s program room
    • Listening system for hearing impaired
    • Will have more plugs so that laptop use is easier
    • The Friends of Woodridge Library space will be significantly reduced to 100-150 sq-ft, which apparently adds $50K to the budget.
      • Sidebar:  Really, seriously?  You can buy a pre-fabbed Home Depot shed of the same dimensions for $2K…
    • The library currently has, and will continue to have, free WiFi, from which you can Skype, etc.
    • Parking is up in the air and will depend on the design proposals.
    • There may be a cafe cart big enough to house two “big” vending machines or a counter for coffee service.
    • The library will have a security system that includes cameras.
  • Sharon Turner pointed out that the library needs a business center type facility (equipped with copy machines, fax, etc.).  I agree with her, especially given Ward 5’s unemployment rate.  I will probably write a separate post on this idea.  DOES and DCPL should consider a joint venture job placement center at the Woodridge Library.

DCPL expressed interest in soliciting feedback at neighborhood meetings, so you can expect to see them around the Ward over the next 6 months.  I will provide updates as details become available.

8 thoughts on “A New Ward 5 Woodridge Library in the Pipeline

      1. The OneStop is becoming the new Teacher’s Union headquarters. I guess we should write about that at some point as well…

  1. Great report of what was discussed last night. The entire community really needs to keep abreast of this project.

  2. Will the library have the name of the neighborhood? I would like to see the building renamed after a Ward 5 educator (like Roberta Quander).

  3. Two questions:

    1) Why is there no interest in mixing uses here? Please tell me this isn’t based on some kind of NIMBY “they’re going to sell off our land” argument like was used in Tenleytown.

    2) Why is Vincent Orange picking someone for this evaluation committee? Libraries are Tommy Wells’ purview, correct? Is this just a case of Mr. Orange being the self-appointed councilmember now that Thomas is gone?

    (And speaking of Thomas – one other note – keep in mind that he chaired the council committee that deals with libraries, and during that entire 4-year period, he got nothing done for this library. I guess he was too busy doing other things. Not sure what…)

    1. Are any of the libraries in DC mixed use? If so, where are they located? What happened to the new Langdon Recreation center Harry Thomas Jr. promised just before he resigned? Can the library and rec center be incorporated into a mixed use facility?

  4. I am happy this library is being redone,it is long over due and is a boost to that neighborhood. I just wonder when is Brookland going to any of these amenities? I realize this is close, but with most of the schools on the Brookland side wouldn’t it make sense to have a library within walking distance for all of these schools? Also a park would be nice too. I am pleased with business development, but I think we need more to attract young families to Brookland.

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