Laurel Library groundbreaking expected to begin in October

The busiest library per square foot in Prince George's County is about to get a makeover.

Groundbreaking for the construction of a new Laurel Library is expected in October with the project's completion scheduled for late in 2014, according to Jack Sloan, associate director of Central Services for Prince George's County.

Local officials revealed designs for the project last week to a group of about 20 residents, politicians and development officials at the library.

"This has been a long time coming," Prince George's County Council member Mary Lehman said. "It will be a fantastic asset to the community."

The library, originally built in 1965 and expanded in 1993, will remain at its current location next to Emancipation Community Park in Old Town Laurel. The three-acre park is expected to lose about one acre to accommodate the new library, which will be nearly triple the size of the library set to be demolished, from 12,000 square feet to 32,000 square feet.

The new library will include a large community meeting room and a public service area powered by generators to serve as a refuge for residents in case of power outages.

While the library is under construction, library employees will be reassigned throughout the Prince George's County Memorial Library System.

Outdoor amphitheater planned

Although the park is decreasing in size, a basketball court and a playground will remain on site, while the developers, Grimm and Parker architects, plan to add an outdoor amphitheater. Grimm and Parker designed Ellicott City's Charles E. Miller Library, which opened in December 2011.

Laurel City Council President Fred Smalls, a member of Lehman's citizen advisory committee on the library redevelopment since its inception, said he is thrilled with the project.

To have the amphitheater built on the former site of the Laurel Grove School that celebrates the school's history and the arts is "just fabulous," he said. The Laurel Grove School served Laurel's African-American students from 1930 until 1962.

Mike Lhotsky, the city's director of Parks and Recreation, said youth sports that have used Emancipation in the past will be moved to the nearby McCullough Field and Sturgis-Moore Recreation Area on Eighth Street.

The library project has been in the county's Capital Improvements Plan since 2005, but Lehman said the county is "not going to pull funding for it now." The county has allocated $14 million for all stages of the project, she said.

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said he was "very pleased" with plans for the library and park.

"This will do nothing but enhance the entire area," he said.

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