The Tuesday, January 27 Talk by Alison Barnet Has Been Postponed to Tuesday, February 3 at 6:30 PM Due to Predicted Blizzard
Combining Libraries and Housing: Boston City Councilors, the BPL and the Walsh Administration are Considering Mixed-use Developments that Include New Branches and Affordable Housing
A city council hearing last December 12, organized by councilors Sal LaMattina and Frank Baker, looked into the possibility of combining affordable housing and branch libraries in Boston. City agency heads –of Inspectional Services, Housing, and the Boston Public Library– attended the December hearing as well and, if the enthusiastic response of the attendees was any indication, such mixed-use developments could happen in Boston in the not-too-distant future. Councilor Baker’s district includes part of the South End and the Dorchester Fields Corner branch, the latter vastly overdue for renovation and expansion. Baker said he hopes to get a proposal for this type of mixed-use development off the ground this year. Representatives of the Fields Corner local business community who testified at the hearing indicated their support. Longtime advocates for a new Chinatown branch in attendance also embraced the concept of mixed-use housing and libraries, and are said to be looking into city-owned property downtown for such a project with representatives of relevant city agencies.
Combining libraries and housing in a range of sizes has been done successfully in other cities: the St Paul, MI, public library in 2007 opened a new branch of more than 31,300 square feet with 98 units of housing above it. In Seattle, WA, the Chinatown branch of the public library system, in operation since 2005, is on the first floor of a five-story structure that offers housing and a community center. It is smaller than the St Paul Rondo Library, less than 4,000 square feet. Also in Seattle, the Delridge public library branch, completed in 2002, anchors the first floor of a three-story building that features 19 apartments. That branch’s library area is 5,600 square feet.
The Rondo Outreach Library of the St Paul Public Library, which opened in 2007, got its name for a reason: extensive outreach by the library’s staff to the surrounding community helped create a branch that met the stated needs of local library users: low-income residents, immigrants from many nations, students, and members of the Rondo African-American neighborhood that thrived there until an interstate was built through it in the 1960s. Rondo residents told the library staff they wanted classrooms and art in the new branch, and that is what they got: classrooms for after-school programs, tutoring, ESL classes and a range of workshops line the library’s interior walls. Work by many local artists is on display and represents different cultures, reflecting the neighborhood’s diversity. In another bow to residents’ need for community space, a separate entrance allows local groups to have access to the library’s community room for meetings when the branch is closed.
In Brooklyn, NY, moreover, several proposals are being considered to add housing on top of first- floor branch libraries that need to be renovated and expanded. According to the New York Times’s architecture critic, Michael Kimmelman, the dilapidated Cadman Plaza branch in the well-to-do Brooklyn Heights section of Brooklyn could be turned into a 21,ooo-square-foot library with 38 floors of market-rate housing on top. Affordable housing units for this project are proposed to be in a different location, a detail seen as “a red flag” by Kimmelman, although conceding off-site subsidized housing would allow for more affordable apartments. In a less affluent neighborhood in the same borough, the 12,000-square-foot Sunset Park library would become a 20,000 square-feet ground-floor new library with a seven-story tower on top, including affordable units. For details on the article, click here.
Alison Barnet Returns to the South End Library on Tuesday, January 27, to Read from her Crime Novel, “Sitting Ducks,” Wherein Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe Appears as “Nick’s Sandwich Shoppe”
A year ago, South End News columnist and author Alison Barnet talked at the library about her newly published South End Character, Speaking Out on Neighborhood Change, a collection of essays reminding readers of the way things used to be here before gentrification. Since then, Barnet has produced a crime novel set in the grittier South End of 1970s, Sitting Ducks, the title referring to elderly women living alone, targets for assault. Readers will easily recognize many local icons of Barnet’s deliciously detailed non-fiction writings in the parade of characters and places of this fictional tale, including Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, now featured as Nick’s Sandwich Shoppe.
Barnet was one of the founding editors of the South End News in the 1980s. She is the author of Extravaganza King: Robert Barnet and Boston Musical Theater, a biography of her great-grandfather, a playwright who lived in the South End in the 1800s.
The event starts at 6:30 PM. The South End library is fully handicapped accessible. refreshments will be served. Copies of Sitting Ducks will be available for sale by the author and for borrowing from the library.
Next author visiting the South End Library: Jamaica Kincaid on Tuesday, February 10, 6:30 PM, to talk about her latest novel, See Now Then.
“What’s That Building For?” is Your Best Guess No More: New Signage on South End Branch’s Tremont Street Side Tells You Right Away, “It’s a Library”
Over the years, newcomers to the South End regularly told FOSEL they had no idea the modernist angular structure at the corner of West Newton and Tremont Streets was a library. One early FOSEL board member walked by it for years, certain it housed a utility company’s offices. Only a small sign in an awkward location high up a column supporting the entrance overhang explained this building was, in fact, the South End Branch of the Boston Public Library.
Confusion over what the building might be about has been eliminated by prominent new lettering installed on the Tremont Street side of the branch earlier this month. Designed by Mary Owens, who has created many posters for author talks and events at the library, the lettering project, which cost a little over $4,000, was paid for equally by the Boston Public Library and its Friends group, FOSEL.
The defensive posture of the 1971 branch’s exterior reflected a time when urban street life in the South End (and elsewhere) was not particularly hospitable and buildings felt safer when they looked like fortresses. Designed by the prominent architectural firm of Mitchell/Giurgola, originally from Philadelphia but since established in New York City, the branch’s external architecture also belies the bright, sunny and colorful interior with its dynamic interplay of angular spaces.
Did You Miss Last Year’s Showing at the SE Branch of “Neighbors: Conservation in a Changing Community?” You’ve Got Another Chance to See It: Thursday, January 15, at 6:30 PM at USES
In January 2014, an important documentary was shown at the South End library by filmmaker Richard Rogers and producer Janet Mendelsohn. Neighbors: Conservation in a Changing Community told the story of the neighborhood’s gentrification as seen through the eyes of twelve residents. If you missed it, Neighbors will be shown again, this Thursday, January 15 at 6:30 PM at USES, located at the corner of Columbus and Massachusetts Avenues. Here’s a link to the USES site.
The film was not exactly advertised to the public when it showed at the library but drew a standing-room only crowd of old-time residents, and some newer ones, and many movers and shakers of that era who still live here and care about how that story is told. They included former State Rep. Mel King and current State Rep., Byron Rushing. A review of the way it was, that night at the South End library, is linked here …
After the film there will be a discussion, moderated by Byron Rushing as was the case last year. Refreshments are served.