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Architects present plans for new Elkridge library, senior center

A rendering shows the outside of the proposed new Elkridge library and senior center, which will more than double the space occupied by the two buildings.
A rendering shows the outside of the proposed new Elkridge library and senior center, which will more than double the space occupied by the two buildings. (Photo courtesy of Grimm + Parker)

Visitors to the new Elkridge branch library, once it's built, will be able to check out hedge trimmers, rakes and shovels alongside their books.

Architects from Grimm + Parker, the firm designing the library and a senior center on the same site, shared plans for both projects with community members on Wednesday. Among the library's features is a DIY Education Center, which will include a tool lending library.

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"If you have a gardening project over the weekend, you can check out a hedge trimmer, a rake, a trowel and a shovel – even a small ladder," said Howard County Library System CEO Valerie Gross. At 2,200 square feet, the center will also incorporate instructional space for classes that might include box garden essentials, plumbing 101 or painting and wallpaper basics. Library officials envision a design institute at the center "where we would bring groups of people together to innovate," according to Gross.

A project to build a new Elkridge branch of the Howard County Library System is set to receive more funding in County Executive Ken Ulman's proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 than previously announced.

A groundbreaking for both buildings is anticipated in spring of next year, construction is planned to start in June 2016 and the project's estimated completion date is December 2017. The county had initially projected construction would break ground in fiscal year 2015 and be finished by this fiscal year.

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Combined, the new library and senior center – which the county is rebranding as a "50+ center," similar to one recently renovated in Ellicott City – will more than double the footprint of the current buildings, located at the intersection of Route 1 and Rowanberry Drive. Built in 1993, the existing Elkridge branch library is 15,000 square feet, while the senior center is about 2,000 square feet. The two new buildings will measure 35,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet, respectively.

"We are taking an ordinary building and we will be delivering the extraordinary," Gross said.

The plans presented Monday are the project's second iteration, after an original concept exceeded cost estimates. Instead of razing both buildings, the library and senior center's foundations will remain, with a new structure sprouting up around them, the architects explained.

"It will look nothing like it does now, but it will have the same nuts and bolts," said Julia Crawford, director of interior design for Grimm + Parker.

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All told, the project will cost $33 million, if the library system's request for the last of the project's funding -- $3.9 million -- in fiscal year 2017 is successful.

The new senior center will have a fitness room, outdoor terrace, more storage space and a lounge with a fireplace, among other amenities, architects said. In addition to the education center, the library's collections will double, its computer collection will increase by 50 percent and it will offer six study rooms and three community meeting rooms. A cafe for visitors will be located near the entrance.

The grounds, which will expand with the purchase of some adjacent land currently owned by Verizon, will include a "living" retaining wall planted with vegetation, pathways connecting the buildings to surrounding communities and a stormwater retention pond. Visitors entering from Route 1 will be pass under a structure that imitates a truss bridge, like the nearby Bollman Bridge in Savage, as a tribute to the area's industrial past.

The existing library and senior center will be closed during construction; Gross said there's no funding to open a temporary library in the community while work is underway, while a senior center official said staff is looking for a short-term replacement space. The closest library branches are at Savage and in Ellicott City, at the Miller branch.

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