Leggett unveils design for new downtown library

Photo: MoCo exec Leggett showed off designs for the new library Saturday. Credit: J. Deseo/SSP.

Photo: MoCo exec Leggett showed off designs for the new library Saturday. Credit: J. Deseo/SSP.

After months of public meetings and debate, MoCo exec Ike Leggett finally revealed exterior designs for downtown Silver Spring’s new library.

“This will be a monument to the community,” he declared Saturday at a book festival inside ye olde library on Colesville Road.

The glass and limestone building will sit at the southwest corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street, with a section hanging over a possible Purple Line light rail station. Access to the library’s third floor entrance will be at either Wayne Avenue or along Fenton Street, where escalators and stairs will be installed. Sorry, trebuchet fans.

“We wanted this library to look snappy with pizzazz,” David Dise, director of the county’s general services department, told the 45 people packed into ye olde library’s large meeting room. The new joint would serve not only as a bookend (ha ha) to the Downtown Silver Spring development, but also as a gateway to the underdeveloped Fenton Village neighborhood, he explained.

The current design does not include a pedestrian bridge leading to the Wayne Avenue garage, across the street from the library site. However, the building will be constructed to accommodate a bridge in the future in case the county council changes its mind on the matter, Dise and Leggett indicated.



Renderings of the new library as seen from Wayne Ave (top), from Fenton Village (middle) and at night (bottom).

In July, the county council voted to quash an amendment to downtown Silver Spring’s development plan that would have permitted the bridge’s construction. Council member Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At large), who voted down the amendment and was at Saturday’s library gig, said the whole bridge subject might be brought to the council’s health and human services committee in the next six to eight months.

“Having flexibility in the design was the wisest course of action,” Trachtenberg told The Penguin. She did not indicate whether she or the council would reverse course.

But Dale Tibbitts, right-hand man to council member Marc Elrich (D-At large), was ready to bet the house that this council wouldn’t approve a pedestrian bridge over Wayne Avenue. They objected to the possibility that a bridge connecting the library directly with the garage would discourage people from visiting businesses in Fenton Village, he explained.

Bridge advocates at the event, most of whom were physically disabled one way or another, continued to press for the thing to be built. The bridge would allow disabled visitors to enter the library without messing with the intersection at Wayne and Fenton, which might include a Purple Line crossing in addition to automobile traffic, they spelled out in fliers distributed at the book fest.

“It just makes common sense to do what’s right for the community,” Leggett, who pressed really freakin’ hard for the bridge, told the audience.

For now, managers with Silver Spring’s parking lot district will provide reserved parking for disabled library patrons on the garage’s first level, Dise said. There’s also $300,000 in crosswalk improvements slated for the intersection at Wayne and Fenton, he added.

As for the library building, Dise predicted a spring groundbreaking after the property is cleared of existing buildings — the Moose lodge, two car-repair shops, a hair salon and a real-estate office — and underground utilities are dropped in place over the winter.

25 Responses to “Leggett unveils design for new downtown library”

  1. B Williams, Silver Spring, MD says:

    ummm—exactly where is First Baptist Church in this photo? Exactly what does the county have in mind? Makes me wonder what Park and Planning is up to…

  2. Relax. The church is on the opposite side of the street from the library.

  3. Woodside Park Bob says:

    The new library looks great, but one thing is missing…. the convenient parking we have at the current location. The nearest parking is across the street in the Wayne Avenue Garage. So far the County Council has refused to amend the urban renewal plan to allow a bridge between the garage and the library. That means most of those million library patrons each year will have to walk half a block to the corner from the garage, try to get across Wayne Avenue (which will soon have Purple Line trains every 3 minutes as well as all the current traffic), and then walk a half block back to the library entrance. That may not be so bad in the abstract, but try it with a bag of books with small children or when it is raining or snowy. And by the way, the bridge is the cheapest way for the the library to meet ADA handicapped accessibility requirements. The County Council needs to approve building the library bridge!

  4. Tdiddy says:

    /facepalm @Woodside Park Bob, you’re joking right?

    No wonder we have so many fatties in America.

  5. JG says:

    Wow. I’m with Tdiddy, are we as a society really so lazy that we can’t walk one block (half a block plus half a block equals 1)? And are we really so enslaved to the instant gratification culture that we can’t wait 3 minutes to cross the street? I would hope not.

  6. Eric says:

    Absolutely NO BRIDGE should be built. This is ALL of our downtown and we don’t want another pedestrian bridge sullying our views, crowding the streetscape, and cutting off ped traffic downtown. There is handicapped access already via the sidewalk, crosswalk, and elevators. Get over it!

    The design looks pretty good actually! Loving the glass, but hating the “hat” on top, which is a fad (and a bad one at that). Would prefer a cleaner roofline.

  7. Robin says:

    Wow, there are some mean people on the internet. I don’t think his point was that we’re too lazy to walk half a block, I think his point is its going to be a crazy intersection if everything planned goes in there. Between the purple line and the cars, people aren’t going to take any kind of priority at the intersection. I happen to agree. Go on, call me a fattie!

  8. tj says:

    If the reason that people want a bridge is because the intersection is going to be crazy, then the focus should be on creating an intersection that is going to be safe for all pedestrians to cross. The focus shouldn’t be on building a bridge to avoid the problem.

  9. KS says:

    Actually, Eric, there is no plan yet for handicapped parking access, and that’s part of the problem. The closest thing to a “plan” is to squeeze in 4-5 accessible spaces that are estimated to cost more than the bridge. There is going to be a Disabilities Resources Center in the new library, so even if there were 4-5 spaces available, they would not be enough when the Center does programming. Using existing parking with direct access for people who need it, just makes sense.

    And yes, the intersection should also be improved. It’s not either/or: you can have both.

    Editor’s note: As stated in the article above:

    “For now, managers with Silver Spring’s parking lot district will provide reserved parking for disabled library patrons on the garage’s first level, [general services director David] Dise said. There’s also $300,000 in crosswalk improvements slated for the intersection at Wayne and Fenton, he added.”

    Also, adding handicapped parking above the first level doesn’t help patrons who drive full-sized vans, the kinds that have wheelchair lifts. The garage’s ceilings won’t accommodate a vehicle that tall, Don Scheuermann, with the transportation department, said previously. That includes the garage level that would connect with the bridge. — JD (Oct 27, 2009)

  10. Spring Resident says:

    Has anyone been to Baltimore for an Orioles game? The successfully get pedestrians (both children, disabled and drunkards) across many lanes of traffic and the light-rail lanes both before and after games without much incident. I wager many more people cross those lanes in a few months of baseball than will visit the library in a year. A pedestrian bridge isn’t necessary. Proper planning for a safe intersection is.

  11. Bubba says:

    There are 3 more places with parking closer to the library than the garage and have easier access without a “crazy” intersection. There is a small public parking lot, next to the Burmese place, almost directly across the street that also has a couple of handicapped spots. Or patrons could park in the public parking behind the gas station on Fenton. Or, patrons could park right on the street in front of the library on Bonifant Street. I’m sure the county could easily reserve several of those spots for the handicapped.

    I would think the garage would be a last resort search for a parking spot given the many other options available.

  12. Thanks for your comment, Bubba.

    I believe the library’s designers ditched parking down Fenton Street because the slope from Bonifant Street to Wayne Avenue exceeds those recommended in the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    I’m not sure what (if anything) will be done to improve access for disabled patrons coming from Fenton Village. The bridge (and its alternatives) address access from the Wayne Avenue garage only.

  13. LuvMyHood says:

    Spring Resident, how many games do the Orioles play per year in that stadium, and what hours? How many days/hours is a library open? This stuff is no joke. I know a woman who used to be very strong and active. She developed MS in her forties, and now has lots of trouble getting around. There is a nasty implication in some of these posts that people have gotten too fat and lazy to walk across the street.
    I still say the library should be rebuilt on the site of the current library.
    If they were really going to do $300,000 worth of improvements to that God-awful intersection, why haven’t they done it so far?

  14. brh says:

    I still can’t believe people think that intersection is so awful. The light isn’t a long wait, and for the most part the traffic behaves well. I walk that intersection almost every day… I’ve never felt the least bit unsafe or threatened. If you’re going to cross where the entrance to the garage is, or if you’re going to cross against the light, then that’s your problem… But if you play by the rules, it isn’t bad… I can’t even begin to imagine how $300k can improve an intersection that doesn’t need improving…

    Obviously the issue of handicapped parking needs to be addressed. I don’t know much about that re: the intersection – the grade of the street, the length of the light… I don’t know those things, and clearly the disabled need access too. But do the vast majority of people really have that much trouble crossing five lanes? Is the train really going to add to the trouble? I suspect that when there’s a train coming, the walk light won’t be on…

  15. Tdiddy says:

    Apparently the folks in Silver Spring need help. I’m tired of all the mollycoddling, hence the ire. If you can’t navigate a couple lanes of traffic I seriously wonder if you’re capable of reading a book.

    Editor’s note: Play nice. — JD (Oct 28, 2009)

  16. LuvMyHood says:

    Here is just one scary incident, from this past summer: Crossing Wayne on the east side, I was behind 2 women and a small dog. We were all crossing as our walk signal began. An agressive driver turning left off Fenton barely missed the dog. That intersection should have left-turn arrows and no-turn-on-red all the way around. That should cost a lot less than $300,000.
    Oh, and I think it needs cameras, too.
    Tdiddy, people who get hit by cars can have lifelong disabilities, making it hard for them to “navigate a couple of lanes of traffic.”

  17. CoronaSS says:

    I’m usually one to go with the side of “suck it up and cross the street” in this arguement, but as someone who crossed that intersection almost daily when I lived downtown, I can say that 95% of the time, at least with this particular intersection, the motorists are the ones who are creating the danger, not the pedestrians. I’m not saying I never saw people Jaywalk there, but I certainly saw motorists gunning it through turns with no regard for Peds crossing with the rite away. I always enjoyed looking into the car at their stone cold faces, wondering if they would really be so intimidating if they actually clobbered someone (intentionally or not).

    My honest opinion? Between the church, the Whole Foods, the gym, and now the library and purple line, there is just too much crap in one small intersection. Heaven forbid we’d spread some of this stuff south on Georgia.

    With that said, I don’t think a bridge is the answer, and I don’t think that $300k in “improvements” is the answer. After all, its only going to get worse at that intersection before it gets better once construction actually starts in 2050. Really, all you need to do is put cops at all four corners and have them flag cars turning into people, and people jaywalking, similar to a radar stop. You have to hit people where it hurts (whoops, bad metaphor, but you get the point) and a few $150 tickets and lost days of work for court would go a long way to stopping the problem. Though once the purple line comes, I’d love to just see them install the railroad track crossing guards that come down when the cars and peds don’t have the right away.

  18. brh says:

    LuvMyHood – Your ’scary incident’ is that in your eyes, a car got too close, but nobody got hurt. That doesn’t sound too scary to me. Actually getting run over? Yeah, that’s scary. But your story sounds more like peds & cars coexisting, and perhaps a driver who should be a little more patient. The point, though, is that we peds can coexist with cars… We don’t need the world to stop for us to walk across the street. Maybe some extra signage reminding the drivers that we’re there (preferably the signage featuring the penguin!). But your story doesn’t really suggest danger to me.

    Also, I feel that your comment to Tdiddy is a little conflated – you’re simultaneously saying that if you cross there, you’ll get hit by a car, and after you get hit by said car you’ll have lifelong disabilities which will make it difficult to cross there. It’s one or the other… I don’t think anyone is denying that things are more difficult for the disabled, and as a culture we need to constantly be figuring out better solutions to transparently help those who need it. But I do think the implied argument that crossing there will some day get you hit by a car is flawed, circulus in probando via argumentum ad baculum.

    As a whole, I think that raising driver awareness of peds and the ped right-of-way would be overall more useful – and actually enforce the law, ticket those who don’t stop for peds in crosswalk. I think that’s something that should be done for the greater good, and not specifically to target that relatively tame intersection…

    Editor’s note: Holy shit! Was that Latin? — JD (Oct 28, 2009)

  19. Thayer Ave., too says:

    Redesigning the intersection to better accommodate pedestrians and the disabled would benefit everyone who walks downtown, whereas building the library bridge would only benefit library patrons who drive.

    Which is the better use of county funds?

  20. brh says:

    @Jennifer, for whatever reason ‘they’ like to stick to their latin phrases when dealing with these argumentative fallacies… Blame the snooty logicians!

    @Thayer, amen! If the bridge gives drivers the idea that nobody will be in the crosswalk, then that’s probably going to make the crosswalk truly dangerous… I don’t really feel like entering the library or garage every time I cross the street…

  21. jt says:

    Re: safety at Orioles Park…you mean the same Orioles Park where Al Gore’s son was hit by a car when they were leaving a game and almost died?

    I think the never-ending debate about the safety at this intersection proves that the location is a poor choice. Save the money and re-do the existing site.

  22. Sticky McBiscuit says:

    ThayerAve is right on the money.

    I walk in that intersection all the time and it is unpleasant. I’ve had several near-misses with aggressive drivers turning into the crosswalk — left-turn arrows and some traffic-calming measures would do wonders here. Glad to hear there’s money for that in the plan.

    If we want a vibrant community, we need to start building landscapes that encourage pedestrians. A skyway looks at first blush like a pedestrian-friendly move, but it only cedes the intersection to automobiles, and that will only lead to more auto traffic. I’m glad the county has foregone the option for now and hope they stick by their decision.

  23. Perry says:

    I would agree with those people on having left-turn arrows. Currently, if you’re on Fenton Street, there are many times where you’ve got no chance to make a left turn until the light basically turns red again so drivers have to be more aggressive. However, there are left-turn arrows on Wayne. Of course, you could always add in a some 20-inch speed bump to really slow down vehicles that are speeding down the street.

  24. LuvMyHood says:

    Just want to remind everyone that hundreds of apts. are planned for Fenton Village, along with the hotel. So that will be thousands more people using that intersection in the coming years.
    “The more people, the merrier!” seems to be the planners’ cry. Dump a train on top of this scurrying mass of humans and vehicles, and things will get even better!



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