Design for new library will change

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Plans for the new Augusta-Richmond County library will be redesigned after a meeting criticizing the $22 million project.

The architects for Augusta's new downtown library said Wednesday they will head back to the drawing board after a morning meeting with critics who want a different look for the proposed facility.

Complaints about the design of the proposed $22 million building at James Brown Boulevard between Greene and Telfair streets prompted Jane Howington, the chairwoman of the East Central Georgia Regional Library Board, to call the meeting.

She said she was worried the public debate over the building's design might limit the success of a capital campaign to raise $3 million needed to complete the project.

Wednesday's meeting lasted an hour and 40 minutes and involved several community leaders, including Historic Augusta Executive Director Erik Montgomery, Augusta Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Mark Lorah, Augusta Tomorrow Chairman Robert Osborne and others.

At its end, David Dickson, of the Craig Gaulden Davis architectural firm of Greenville, S.C., said he would take what he had heard from the meeting, make some modifications to the exterior design and meet again with the library board, Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Lorah and Mr. Osborn, to see whether the changes address their concerns.

The Historic Preservation Commission initially rejected the library's design and is still not satisfied with it, although they reluctantly approved it after some concessions were made, such as brick color.

Much of Wednesday's criticism focused on the black marble entrance and the design that will face Greene Street.

The preservation board and other agencies also complained they were not involved in the process until the design was complete.

Mr. Osborne said anything the architects do to change the exterior will help at this point.

"I think tweaking it will help you," he said.

Mr. Montgomery said he was baffled that the design had been "out there this long in this form."

Library Director Gary Swint said he had not known that the design had to be approved by the historic preservation board.

"Nobody from the city told me that until just a casual remark about a month before the meeting," he said. "I apologize for that. It never occurred to me to get anyone else involved. I'm sorry."

Mrs. Howington said the project has been in the works for five years and has been discussed openly, but no one seemed to have any objections until the 11th hour before the bidding and construction are scheduled to start.

She said the board is under time and money restraints with a deadline for receiving a $2 million grant from the state.

"We as the library board are reaching out in a conciliatory way to bring the community together," she said. "We want to build the very best building possible to be admired by the most people possible. And I think we had a good consensus here. We've got a few little things to work on, but I think it's going to work."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at 706-823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.