The next chapter: City breaks ground on Pacific Highlands Ranch Library

PHR Library groundbreak
SD Director of Engineering and Capital Projects Rania Amen, SD Library Director Misty Jones, Councilmember Joe LaCava, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Councilmember Marni von Wilpert and Jonathan Glus break ground on the new PHR Library.
(Karen Billing)

For over 15 years, a hopeful sign stood on a vacant lot on Village Center Loop Road, reading “Future library”. That future got one step closer with the official groundbreaking of the new Pacific Highlands Ranch Library on a sunny July 15 morning. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and City Councilmember Joe LaCava helped lead the ceremonial shoveling of dirt to mark the long-awaited start of construction.

The $27.6 million, 18,000 square-foot library will be built on a three-acre site in the heart of PHR, at the back of the Village shopping center, across the street from the community park and recreation center and surrounded by homes in the still-growing neighborhood.

“The library helps complete the Pacific Highlands Ranch town center,” LaCava said. “Public libraries bring life into our neighborhoods, we gather at libraries, we learn at libraries and we are inspired by libraries. This Pacific Highlands Ranch Library will be inspirational.”

Originally construction was expected to begin in fall 2020 and open in early 2022 but the work was delayed primarily due to the pandemic. The library is now expected to open in fall 2024.

The library will feature more reading nooks for all ages, a children’s area for storytime and crafts, free access to computers and internet, an outdoor reading patio, study rooms, a maker’s space to learn new things through experimentation and collaboration, a community room and gathering space with a kitchen and an outdoor civic space linking to the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch’s public promenade.

The architecture is contemporary with a nod to the community’s Santa Barbara-style, designed by Hanna Gabriel Wells Architecture (who also designed the recreation center across the street).

A rendering of the new PHR Library.
(Courtesy of the city of San Diego)

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Director of the San Diego Library Misty Jones said to build a library from the ground up is no small undertaking. The library went through a community design effort in 2018 and residents were thanked for their input, support and patience throughout the long process.

Mayor Todd Gloria speaks at the library groundbreaking.
(Karen Billing)

“The community’s feedback has allowed us to create a library design that meets the unique needs of the residents who will be using it,” Jones said. “The San Diego Public Library strives to be a place for opportunity, discovery and inspiration and I can assure you all 18,000 square feet of this facility will be used to achieve that goal.”

The new library will also include the integration of public art, wrapped around an outdoor courtyard. San Diego artist Janelle Iglesias was selected through a competitive call for artists, out of more than 100 submissions.

Her piece commissioned for the site is called “Text/Tile ”will be an immersive terra cotta tile installation in the library’s main plaza that is “both highly decorative and acts as a word find,” said Jonathan Glus, the executive director of city’s commission on arts and culture. The design will be comprised of the words in the languages of people who have inhabited the land where the new library will be sited: English, Spanish and Kumeyaay.

The Pacific Highlands Ranch branch will be the 37th location in the city’s library system, serving the communities of Pacific Highlands Ranch, Del Mar Mesa, Torrey Highlands and Black Mountain Ranch.

Gloria said that it is an example of major investments the city is making in neighborhoods across the city—including the new library in San Ysidro that opened up, the upcoming library renovation in Ocean Beach, and new libraries that will be constructed in Oak Park and San Carlos.

“We’re going to deliver a world-class, state-of-the-art branch library for this community that so deserves it,” Gloria said. “I’m really happy about that.”

San Diego City Councilmember Joe LaCava at the site of the future library.
(Karen Billing)