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Looking Back at Austin's 'Library For the Future'

City of Austin
A rendering of the new central library, along Cesar Chavez Street.

A new central library – an updated replacement for the 1970s-era  Faulk Central Library downtown – has been in the works since 2006. It was that year that voters approved $90 million in bonds to finance the project.

Six years later, and construction hasn’t  started on what the city touts as the “library for the future.” And the Austin City Council recently approved an additional $1.3 million in funding.  

In the spring of 2008, the Council approved the library’s site, nestled between the slated-for-redevelopment Seaholm Power Plant, and the site of the former Green Water Treatment Plant.  The library was officially defined as the “Library for the Future” when the council approved an “Architectural Program Building Narrative” later that year. That’s also when the council also selected the architects to guide the project.

The council approved an increase to the library’s budget – from $90 million to $120 million – in 2010. (The shortfall is covered by a mix of real estate sale proceeds, general fund dollars, and more.)

In October 2011, City Council approved the schematic design of the library – a first look at what the finished building might resemble.  The 200,000 square foot, six-story building features eco-friendly  amenities including a green roof, a rainwater collection system, and natural light throughout.

Last week, assistant city manager Bert Lumbreras sent a memo to the council saying it will be asked to approve an additional $1.3 million to cover “modifications to the architectural and engineering scopes of work.” Those items include:

1. the complete design of approximately 192,000 square feet of building;  2. responding to the complexity of the building as a result of the revised construction budget of $90 million; 3. the design of a detailed rainwater collection system utilizing an underground, former  Austin Energy pump room as a storage tank; 4. the design of a detailed structural foundation system responsive to the geotechnical  engineering investigation outcome, the location of the Downtown Wastewater tunnel  beneath the library building, as well as the high water table and flood conditions of Lady  Bird Lake;  5. the selection and procurement of additional furnishings and equipment; and  6. the additional detailed coordination with  adjacent ongoing projects in the Lower Shoal Creek area.

The City Council approved the funds on June 28. Library construction is not scheduled to begin until summer of 2013, with completion planned for 2015, and an opening the following year.

You can read more about the central library

An earlier version of this article stated the additional funds were to be considered July 28, not June 28, and that the library would open in 2015; construction will be finished at that time, but it will not be ready to open until 2016. The article has been changed to reflect these corrections.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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