When Mayor Michael Nutter talks about his days growing up around 52nd and Larchwood he makes it clear that the local library was a sacred place that made a difference in young and old lives.
That was a point well taken Monday when a packed greenhouse at the Fairmount Park Horticultural Center heard about what prompted a new plan to reinvent five public spaces in Philadelphia, including the Lovett Memorial Library and and its adjacent park in Mt. Airy.
The ongoing renovation and expansion of one of that neighborhood’s most essential resources by The Free Library of Philadelphia and Mt. Airy USA is getting a boost of $1.75 million. That’s part of an $11 million investment by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation to the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s “Reimagining the Civic Commons” initiative.
Phased improvements include plans to invigorate the land around Lovett Memorial Library with a park that will include a courtyard for library patrons, an outdoor quiet area for reading and reflection, a storytelling ring, a plaza along Germantown Avenue that will include café tables and chairs, a natural area for creative play and an amphitheater that will feature outdoor performances.
The library, too, will sport new features, including:
A children’s library: A focal point of the new space, featuring comfortable children’s furniture, designated reading areas, and computers equipped with age-appropriate software
Pre-K zone: Located within the Children’s Library and brimming with picture books, small tables and chairs, and movable soft furniture that toddlers can use comfortably
Living room: A warm and welcoming space where customers can self-check books, gather with friends, and enjoy the library’s programs
Teen space: A haven for teens to gather, do homework after school, engage in age-appropriate programming, and receive academic support
Computer lounges: Three centrally located spaces featuring state-of-the-art technology that provides access to the internet and to the Free Library’s rich digital resources
Lovett Library is one of four branch libraries in the Free Library system that has been designated for renovation and expansion through the 21st Century Libraries Initiative. The driving force behind the project is the creation of a new hub of community activity.
According to Mt. Airy USA, the project will address a number of community improvement goals including spurring economic development along Northwest Philadelphia’s central commercial corridor, Germantown Avenue, invigorating open space access and usage, encouraging literacy, and providing a haven for community gatherings.
In December, landscape architect Julie Bush of LRSLA Studio asked the Philadelphia Art Commission for approval to tackle phase one this spring. That will involve laying some bluestone on now-barren earth that would serve as the plaza on Germantown Ave. They would hold off on later phases until the Free Library figures exactly what the renovations and expansion of the Lovett Library entails.
Click here to view the conceptual designs prepared for Lovett Park by the Community Design Collaborative.