There have been two major developments in the Westminster branch library's Exploration Commons at 50 East project this week: The project has received its first donation and the Board of County Commissioners has chosen Mans Woodward Studios as the architect.

Sharon Hafner Yingling, committee chair for the fundraising project, and her husband John Yingling have come forward with $50,000 to gift the Commons space.


"We're really excited to move forward with this," said Lisa Picker, spokeswoman for the Carroll County Public Library. "It's great to have the architect named and moving forward with his concept and plans — and to have that lead gift in place is also wonderful."

Exploration Commons will occupy 14,000 square feet in a community space below the Westminster branch library, comprising a makerspace, culinary center and meeting space where "ideas, and tools come together to create, innovate, and collaborate," according to its website.

"[We] are proud to do our part in making Exploration Commons at 50 East a reality," said Hafner Yingling this week. "We believe this exciting project will transform Main Street and benefit all of Carroll County."

The Yingling family's gift, Picker wrote in a news release, will be instrumental in helping learners and entrepreneurs of all ages to bring ideas to life.

"It was great to have [Sharon's] vote of confidence by way of this announced gift," Picker said.

CCPL's Lynn Wheeler ready to start a new chapter

CCPL's Lynn Wheeler was instrumental in the construction and opening of the Finksburg Branch Library; the renovation of Westminster Branch; and the interior renovations to the North Carroll, Mount Airy, Eldersburg, and Taneytown branches. She plans to retire in November.

Exploration Commons at 50 East will offer various equipment, resources, and training for areas such as: digital fabrication, game and app development, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, textiles, cybersecurity, culinary arts, audio and videography, and photography.

And Rob Manns of Manns Woodward Studios said Friday he is looking forward to what should be an enjoyable project.

"For us this is going to be a lot of fun," said Manns. "We've built a really strong relationship with Carroll County on the public safety projects we've done and we've done a lot for the local libraries.

"We understand this is going to be a very innovative space and very unique in the state," he said. "We use [virtual reality] in our office and as the design progresses not only will the community have the opportunity to see renderings, but beyond that we will be able to put people in the space and let people walk around with VR equipment before it's even a reality. In a lot of ways we are going to be using the same technology involved in the project."

The total cost of the project, which is scheduled to begin construction in the fall of 2019, is set at $3.9 million.

Between the state and county, $2.5 million will be provided, and the remaining $1.4 million is expected to be met through private donations and grant funding to make the space a reality.

"Exploration Commons at 50 East will create new horizons for innovation, work, and play in our community," said Jason Stambaugh, of the MAGIC Board of Directors. "Children and adults alike will be afforded experience and opportunities previously only available in major cities.

"I can't wait to see and hear about all of the amazing things that people learn and build," he said. "We'll look back in 30 years and see that this space was a critical piece of the puzzle for creating incredible growth and prosperity in Carroll."