More than a decade has passed since Jim Fish's first conversation about a future library branch in Owings Mills.
Now that the Owings Mills Branch is due to open March 21 at the long-awaited County Campus at Metro Centre at Owings Mills on Grand Central Avenue, the Baltimore County Public Library director couldn't be happier about sharing the building with the Community College of Baltimore County.
CCBC administrators and faculty will move into the building starting in mid-May followed by an official opening ceremony later in the year.
"It's a beautiful building. Lots of glass and natural light, a color scheme of mostly off-white," Fish said. "In the front of the building is an outdoor plaza for special events with views inside the building overlooking the plaza."
The Owings Mills Branch and CCBC Owings Mills — as the two institutions are calling their portions — are splitting the six-story, 120,000-square foot building.
The library occupies the first and second floors (54,000 square feet) while CCBC will have slightly more space on the fourth through sixth floors (70,000 square feet). The institutions share the third floor's meeting and conference rooms.
A free parking garage sits next to the building, and, according to Fish, plans call for the construction of second free parking garage on the other side of the building. A walkway from that garage will lead into the third floor of the building.
"The goal is to make the building as seamless as possible for the public and students," Fish said, noting amenities like a café near the main entrance, nearly 60 computers for public use and Sunday hours at the library will also be available.
"There will be a lot of shoppers," he said of projected future retail stores at the Metro Centre, "and we want to make the library part of their activities."
The Owings Mills Branch will be the largest of the BCPL's 19 branches. Extensive children and teen areas will boast their own computers and activities. In an attempt to allow for more natural light to flood the building, bookcases will be lower than standard size.
"We've needed a stronger library presence in Owings Mills for decades," says Fish, who hopes to welcome 30,000 visitors per month to the site, based on the level of activity at other branches.
CCBC, which has campuses in Catonsville, Essex and Dundalk, will have four extensions sites with CCBC Owings Mills, according to CCBC president Sandra Kurtinitis.
While still considered an extension site, CCBC Owings Mills will be much larger and have more offerings than its other sites, including an existing one in the Painters Mill Professional Building on Painters Mill Road.
"The opening of this building is an important event for the college," she says, tripling the amount of space for classrooms and laboratories in the current Painters Mill site.
Kurtinitis expects to at least double the number of students from the current 1,200 at CCBC Owings Mills and will offer Associate of Arts degrees in general studies and in business.
Moreover, it will have laboratory classes in biology, anatomy and physiology that nursing and allied health careers require. Preparatory courses applicable to four-year institutions will also be offered.
"We love being co-located with the library," says Kurtinis. "It's a beautiful building," she said, echoing Fish. "It's so uplifting for our students and our staff."
The County Campus at Metro Centre at Owings Mills cost $30 million for design, construction, furniture and fixtures. Baltimore County spent $20.3 million and the state chipped in the remaining $9.7 million. In addition, the county and state funded infrastructure and parking garages, for $28.2 million.
Built by CAM Construction Co., the County Campus is a LEEDS Silver building. The U.S. Green Building Council oversees LEEDS, a voluntary rating system of silver, gold and platinum for "green," or environmentally friendly, buildings.