Article28 DC MLK Library

The D.C. Public Library Board of Trustees recently adopted a resolution unanimously supporting a modernization design for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library that would allow the library to remain a stand-alone building with a fifth-floor addition.

With the city facing a virtual land grab that has pitted residents and developers at odds over the use of space, many proposals for library and housing renovations have sought to incorporate mixed-use structures. Under such proposals, stores and libraries would take up two to three floors in buildings that also provide condominiums, offices, or retail space.

The board recommended the fifth-floor addition approach instead of a three-story, mixed-use addition after considering the requirements for a modern library, factoring in community feedback and reviewing the cost-benefit analysis of adding three new floors.

While the options to include a café or space for non-profit or government partners remains, the Board’s goal is to also incorporate as many of the wishes and visions of residents as possible.

“After months of listening and learning, the Board had several goals,” said Gregory M. McCarthy, president of the Board of Trustees. “First and foremost, it was essential to make possible additional space for programming in a spectacular central library. We also wanted to create a hub for educational, cultural and civic expression for the whole city and we wanted to contribute to the social and economic activation around MLK in downtown. The concept we’re advancing does all of that.”

Initial planning for the modernized Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in 2012 assumed that a new library would need only 250,000 square feet. In December, the Library revised its program to incorporate new library uses and to include ideas from more than 3,000 District residents. The new program will require the entire 400,000-square foot building plus the fifth-floor addition, and will include classrooms, studio space, learning spaces for children and teens, and a D.C. History Center.