UPPER MARLBORO — Prince George’s County is looking to revitalize the Bladensburg Town Center in the coming years and one of the first items on the list is a brand-new Bladensburg library.
The current 7,300 square foot building, which sits at 4820 Annapolis Road, was built in 1925 and the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) and the county believe it is time for an upgrade.
“The original library building was built in 1925 (and is) basically functionally obsolete now and no longer serves the needs of the community,” said Ted Kowaluk, the planning board staff assigned to the library’s mandatory referral.
The library is mandatory referral was before the county’s planning board on March 8. Mandatory referrals are the way by which the board reviews public sector development projects. During the process, planning staff combs development proposals for compliance with zoning as well as development laws of the county. Through that process, planning staff determines what, if any, changes to the plan should be made for the development to comply and be viable.
Plans for the new library include demolishing the current building and moving services off-site so that a brand new building can be constructed on the same 1.25 acres at the corner of Annapolis and Edmonton roads.
“The project’s objective is to provide a new, larger, state-of-the-art facility (and) also catalyze redevelopment of the Bladensburg Town Center,” Kowaluk said. “And to meet the community’s desire for sustainable design.”
The new library will be two stories tall and have a total of 22,835 square-feet – more than doubling the current floor area. The plan hopes to have the library meet LEED Silver certification by installing solar panels on the roof, including low-flow plumbing, have porous pavement outside the library and landscaping with indigenous plants.
Through the process, planning staff determined there were two minor parts of the plan that should be altered. The first is the height of the fence surrounding the new library and the second is to change out the planned trees for the site.
“Due to the nature of the proposed site, staff believes the site should not be overly screened. They are proposing, and eight-foot fence along the western boundary of the site and staff would like to see that reduced,” Kowaluk said. “Urban design staff is also concerned that the shade trees proposed for the parking lot are not a good choice. They’re willow oaks, and they are concerned about the acorns.”
PGCMLS interim Chief Executive Officer Michael Gannon spoke at the meeting and agreed with the tree recommendation, saying he thought the acorns might be an issue.
He also advocated for the library replacement, noting that libraries are still extremely relevant, especially in Prince George’s County.
“The library is doing better than its ever done,” he said. “Last year over 2.5 million people came through the Prince George’s County Memorial Library’s doors…Seventy percent of our residents have library cards, and last year, 5.4 million items were checked out from the library.”
The planning board unanimously voted to approve and send staff’s recommendations on the library project to the library system. Several of the board commissioners remarked on the importance of the library and said they were glad to see the project move forward.
“I think the public library system in Prince George’s County and throughout the United States is critical to forming the nature of our democracy,” said Commissioner Manuel Geraldo.
The next steps for the project include finding a temporary site as well as several permitting processes for demolition, grading, utility and electrical permits before starting on the new library, according to the planning board’s staff report.
The library system has been in the process of updating its branches for the past several years with renovations to the Bowie and Laurel branches as the most recent finished example. The system is still in the process of renovating both the Hyattsville and New Carrollton branches.
The New Carrollton branch has been closed since December 2015 and is extremely behind schedule as it was initially set to open June 2017. Hyattsville’s library closed for demolition in April 2017 while a temporary location opened just a few feet away.
Gannon said in April that he hoped the new Hyattsville Library will be up and running fall 2019.
“We had planned that when one closed for renovation, another one would open, but with the way contracting goes, with the way contractors are and how things work, we’ve kind of fallen into this unfortunate situation where we have more libraries closed than we ever thought we would,” Gannon said in April.