Birmingham Votes “No” on Library Expansion

By Olivia Neilson

Baldwin
Balwin Public Library entrance. The renovation would have restored older parts of the building as well as added new rooms. Photo/ McKenna Ross

For the past several weeks, one distinct characteristic of many Birmingham lawns has been the staking of a sign pertaining to the city’s library: a 1927 slate-roofed gem located in the heart of downtown Birmingham.
On Tuesday, May 6 Birmingham residents voted against the proposed $21.5 million dollar renovation of the Baldwin Public Library, a project that would have demolished additions from the 60s and 80s and replaced them with the continuation and restoration of original 1920s architecture.
Other aspects of the project would have included an improved youth area, a coffee café and more square footage. Total space after the renovation would have amounted to 56,600 square feet, an upgrade from its current 40,174, according to a plan overview by Ann Arbor—based architect Quinn Evans.
A large divide was present in the city before election day, as one could hardly go more than a block without spotting differing views from neighbors.
“The vote certainly stated very decisively where they stand on this issue,” library director Doug Koschik said. “The building has issues, and we will continue to address them in a manner that is appropriate.”
Strong opinions on the subject existed not only amongst neighbors but amongst students.
“I really don’t think that our library needs to be remodeled,” Seaholm junior Magnolia Landman said. “It just doesn’t make sense because $21.5 million dollars is a ton of money that could be spent elsewhere, considering the city wouldn’t even be getting more books. They would only be re-doing a library that already looks fine.”
“I would’ve wanted the vote to be yes only if the city was planning to make it like the Bloomfield Hills library,” Jenny Fisher said. “Because that one’s sweet.”
Other students supported the costly renovation.
“The vote totally should have been yes,” anonymous said. “I can’t believe people are so stingy about improving a library.”
The structure was born in 1871 as result of Martha Baldwin’s insistence on a first class library for the town and has remained a striking showpiece of history and commemoration on West Merrill Street ever since.
“We are now holding discussions with the Birmingham City Hall, who owns the library,” Koschik said. “Any further action will have to be determined by the library board and the city commission.”

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