New Havre de Grace library will be a 'go-to destination,' architect predicts

The Harford County library system is gearing up to roll out an upgraded Havre de Grace branch that is nearly double the size of the existing building and equipped with an interactive children's area and an indoor-outdoor courtyard.

Rob Manns, co-founder of Manns Woodward Studios, contracted to head the new library design, said upgrades to the facility will make the branch a "go-to destination for people even outside of the county."

The new design will incorporate an urban setting with the culture and climate that makes Havre de Grace tick, Manns said, during a presentation to the county's Board of Library Trustees on Nov. 21, at which Manns released a rendering of the exterior of the new building.

The new facility will incorporate a modern maritime theme, paying homage to the city's ties with the Susquehanna River, he said.

The Havre de Grace will remain at the intersection of Union and Pennington avenues, but the existing building will be torn down and expanded upward, adding a second floor, which will take the facility from 8,400 square feet to close to 15,000.

"We wanted to keep the facility in the center of the city so it's more accessible to the community," Manns said. "With the renovations to the opera house across the street, we want to turn this into an urban statement."

The first floor of the library will be used for administrative offices, a delivery room, a 104-seat meeting room and gallery space. The bottom floor will also open up into a courtyard for indoor-outdoor community events, Manns said.

Under the new design, the second floor will have a maritime-themed early learning area for toddlers called Schooner's Cove, similar to Storyville center at the Rosedale and Woodlawn branches of the Baltimore County Public Library. Young children can enjoy Lafayette Cove, an interactive learning center with telescopes resembling a ship and there will be an updated teen zone.

"The facility will highlight the maritime tradition of the Chesapeake region," Manns said. "We wanted to provide a modern facility in a historic context."

The customer service desk and a balcony overlooking the courtyard will also be on the second floor, Manns said.

"Our mantra is to create a tech-oriented building that is user-friendly for all age groups," Manns said during the meeting.

In August, the Harford County Board of Estimates approved a nearly $400,000 design services contract for the new branch.

The Harford County Public Library Foundation also kicked off a building fund campaign to raise money for the facility with a goal to raise $200,000 by 2015. A portion of the $100,000 raised at the recent 2013 annual library gala will go toward the campaign.

The Harford County government will fund the rest of the construction, Hastler said.

Because of the branch's high volume of foot traffic, the facility will be equipped with bike racks surrounding the entrance on Pennington Avenue, Manns said.

Manns said the design team is also working to secure additional parking spaces. He said he hopes to incorporate 20 more spaces around the facility for parking.

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