Design for new Pacific Highlands Ranch Library begins

The design process for the new Pacific Highlands Ranch Library has officially kicked off as the first subcommittee meeting was held on Jan. 29. Designers shared visions of cozy reading nooks and imaginative outdoor gathering spots for the long-awaited branch of the San Diego Public Library system.

According to Misty Jones, San Diego Public Library director, the city is looking at a three to four years until the library on Village Center Loop Road opens. Jones said the schedule includes a year and a half on design, six months to advertise and award the construction bid, followed by a year and a half of construction.

Frisco White, chair of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, said it should definitely not take over a year to design, requesting that they speed up the design process over the next few months.

Even if they design the project quickly, however, the funding is not available until July 2019 and the city can’t go out to bid until the funding is in place.

Despite the long timeline, the committee members will work as efficiently as they can—they will get their first look at the library’s first proposed architecture at the next meeting.

While there is no set date yet for the meeting, it should be held in early March.

Hanna Gabriel Wells Architecture, the firm that designed the new recreation center at the community park across the street, has been tapped to design the new library. According to Jim Gabriel of Hanna Gabriel Wells, the new library is an essential facility needed to take some of the load off of the Carmel Valley Library, one of the busiest in the city.

“(The new library) is an amazing location right at the heart of the Pacific Highlands Ranch town center,” said Gabriel, noting the area is walkable and connected in with the area’s housing, retail and commercial center, community park and recreation center, and schools. “It’s at a pivotal point in the community and we think there’s a really exciting opportunity to do something really special with this branch.”

The library will border the Village of Pacific Highlands Ranch’s new Sola apartment development and the Village’s promenade—the space just beyond where the Village’s central plaza is now includes plans for an open space corridor with a dog park, trails, passive seating areas and a community garden.

The city property is three acres and Gabriel said 1.5 acres will be used for the library facility with the remaining 1.5 acres envisioned as a “strong civic space” connecting the library with the Village.

The plans for the library include an 18,000-square-foot branch which will include a large 1,900-square-foot community room. The designers intend to incorporate small conference rooms,whimsical and casual environments, study tables, zones for children, teens and adults, plenty of places to perch and a sense of light and brightness.

“We want the library to not just be endless stacks, we want to have lots of interesting spaces,” Gabriel said.

The initial layout planned includes a veranda/porch-like space that will connect the library to the adjacent open space.

“One of the things we think is the most critical to its success is the veranda concept, it’s the glue that is really going to make that civic space sing and make the library feel most fully integrated,” Gabriel said.

JT Barr, principal of Schmidt Design Group, offered a few design concepts for the veranda, such as using it as an extension of the library with mobile reading carts, reading nooks, and interesting and playful sculptural elements that double as seating. Other ideas included thoughtful art pieces, movable furniture and imagination playgrounds with large building blocks.

Barr said they also have ideas to introduce lighting to activate the area in the evenings as well as the daytime.

“The veranda is a really exciting opportunity,” Gabriel said. “It’s the mixing spot and, if we do it right, it should be a win-win for everybody. It should be a great enhanced community space and a great enhanced outdoor library space.”

While they have just started on the initial exterior architecture, White told Gabriel that it doesn’t have to be Santa Barbara style, however, committee member Karen Dubey said she would prefer it was.

“I think this should be more bold and be able to stand on its own,” White said.

White encouraged the architects to respect the Santa Barbara style that is there but work toward something that is more modern and indicates “this is a library of the future.”

Dubey disagreed, preferring that the building echo the Santa Barbara style of the rest of the community.

“As a resident of Pacific Highlands Ranch, we love our fire station, we love the beautiful tile work in the Village,” Dubey said. “We don’t think it should be another high school, junior high or your park building; they’re all kind of out of touch with the rest of our community.”

Gabriel said that they will look to draw on some of the “wonderful qualities of the Village”, such as the consistency of the simple white walls, detailing and articulation, and create a contemporary building that complements that look but still stands on its own.

As one resident said, no matter what it looks like, it’s going to be a hit on day one.

Those interested in getting on a mailing list for upcoming design committee meetings can email Frisco White at white@wwarch.com.

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