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Baltimore puts $500,000 toward new Pratt library in Park Heights — the system's first new branch in a decade

The Orleans Street branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in 2007, when it opened.
The Orleans Street branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in 2007, when it opened. (Algerina Perna / The Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore’s spending board on Wednesday approved a transfer of $500,000 to the Enoch Pratt Free Library to begin design work for a new library in Park Heights, which would be the system’s first new branch in more than a decade.

The new facility in Northwest Baltimore would replace the old Pimlico branch, which closed more than 17 years ago, according to the Board of Estimates description of the transfer.

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“Everybody is excited about a library coming back to that part of the city,” said Mayor Catherine Pugh, who sits on the Board of Estimates. “It’s long overdue.”

She said some Park Heights residents have been waiting more than 15 years for such a facility. She said the library is part of a much larger planned redevelopment in the area that includes a new recreation center.

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The plan Pugh was referring to also includes the revitalization of Pimlico Race Course — home of horse racing’s Preakness Stakes — though the track’s future is uncertain, as its owner has said it wants to move the venerable second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown south to its Laurel Park track.

Pugh’s office also on Wednesday released a “framework” for community development that highlights a slate of redevelopment and development projects in Park Heights, including an expansion of Sinai Hospital by LifeBridge Health.

Pugh praised Heidi Daniel, the Enoch Pratt library’s president, as a strong leader who she said “is excited about revitalizing libraries across the city” — including the system’s Central Library, which has been undergoing major renovations and is set to reopen in September.

Library officials also are excited about the new branch, said Meghan McCorkell, a library spokeswoman.

“We believe the Park Heights community deserves a state-of-the-art community library that would include children’s literacy services, technology and collaboration spaces,” McCorkell said.

McCorkell said the library system is only in the “planning phase” for the new branch, and will be gathering input from community members “about what they’d like to see in their library” as part of that process. There is no timeline yet for the opening of the branch, she said, in part because the library is still working to secure funding.

In her time working for Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, Sadye Whitt has seen 10 mayoral inaugurations, five library administrations, thousands of book acquisitions and countless technological changes. That’s what happens when you’ve worked for the city longer than anyone else — 56 years.

The city has committed funds to the project, and we're hoping for state funding, as well,” McCorkell said.

McCorkell said ideally the Pratt would like to build an 18,000-square-foot library, which it estimates would cost $17 million.

“If funding comes in under that, we'll adjust the plan," she said.

The last time the Pratt opened new branches was in 2007, when it opened the Southeast Anchor Library and a branch on Orleans Street.

The location for the Park Heights library — at Park Heights and Woodland avenues — is adjacent to the CC Jackson Recreation Center, which is being redeveloped. The branch site was selected as the result of a feasibility study conducted over the past year, McCorkell said.

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