Satisfied with a host of design improvements added after a pre-summer presentation, the Vienna Town Council agreed unanimously Sept. 12 to continue moving ahead on a joint venture with Fairfax County to build a new Patrick Henry Library with a parking structure.
Council members had been less than pleased by rough concept designs presented by county officials in June, but were heartened by the latest iterations.
“This is an incredible improvement and there’s room for a little bit more improvement,” said Council member Ed Somers.
The project kicked off in June 2020 when the Council approved a design-and-construction-development agreement with the county. The town’s share is $5.05 million, including 30 percent of design costs (up to $850,000) and 10 percent of construction expenses (up to $4.2 million).
The Council on Jan. 24 approved $663,000 for design work for the project, with the proviso it could back out if the initiative did not shape up to their liking.
If Council members had chosen Sept. 12 to part ways with the county on the project, the town would have gotten back 85 percent of the design fees contributed so far.
County officials will come back in six months with more detailed plans, and if the Council backs out then, the town will get only a 50-percent fee reimbursement.
The library is coming no matter what. The only question is whether it will have a parking garage with 125 spaces for library users or a larger structure with an additional 84 municipal parking spots.
The current 13,800-square-foot facility at 101 Maple Ave., E., which is heavily used, was built in 1971 and renovated and expanded in 1995. It has insufficient parking and outdated systems, library officials said.
Town officials hoped the county would build a two-story library, thus allowing for wider setbacks, but the county stuck with one story. The planned 19,000-square-foot new library would have library space near Maple Avenue, E., and Center Street, S. Farther east on Maple Avenue, there would be a community plaza covered with a trellis, then a community section of the building with flexible space, a conference room and restrooms.
Administrative areas would be located behind the community space.
The parking structure, located along the property’s south side, would have three levels and an open top deck with solar panels that both would generate energy for the building and provide shade for vehicles below.
The county aims to make the building highly energy-efficient, with a 50-percent reduction in energy usage and the goal of obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.
Council members liked the idea of solar panels, although some wished they could be architecturally screened.
“This is a huge improvement over first presentation,” said Council member Steve Potter. “The solar panels alone are a stroke of genius.”
Fairfax County officials already have been consulting with the town’s Board of Architectural Review and will continue to do so as a project advances.
Some sticking points remain, such as whether to cover the non-glassed portions of the building with yellow, brown or red brick. Council members Nisha Patel and Howard Springsteen liked red bricks, while Somers preferred yellow bricks as lighter and airier looking.
Because the project will be executed on a small, 1.43-acre site, the county likely will ask the town for waivers of required tree canopy and property setbacks.
Under current zoning, the library must be set back 26 feet from Maple Avenue (11 feet for the right-of-way and then 15 feet more from the property line to the building).
The proposed library would be 21 feet from the street, but that compares favorably with 13 feet for the current building.
The county plans to install a 15-foot-wide sidewalk along Maple Avenue in front of the library, which is triple the width of the current walkway.
Anticipating a question from Mayor Linda Colbert, county officials said they will remove the commemorative bricks in front of the library, which are marked with the names of their buyers when the town did its Maple Avenue Enhancement Project a quarter-century ago. The county then will reinstall the commemorative bricks once the library is constructed.
The Council voted 6-0 to move ahead; member Charles Anderson was absent.
Springsteen was excited at the prospect of finally obtaining municipal parking, following the collapse of several other proposals in recent years.
“This is the most viable option for parking,” he said. “If we don’t do this, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”