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D.C. Chooses Team For Renovation Of Iconic MLK Library Building

The plan for the MLK Memorial Library would see a three-story mixed-use space built on the building's roof.
Mecanoo Architecten/Martinez+Johnson Architecture
The plan for the MLK Memorial Library would see a three-story mixed-use space built on the building's roof.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray today announced the winning team for the redesign of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in downtown D.C. — Dutch firm Mecanoo Architecten and D.C.-based Martinez+Johnson Architecture. The team will be in charge of what is expected to be a $250 million renovation and redesign of the iconic Ludwig Mies van der Rohe building, which has served as the city's central public library since 1972.

Library officials have long complained that the four-story building at Ninth and G Streets NW — which was designated a historic site in 2007 — is too large and too expensive to maintain. In 2012, a panel exploring the future of the city's central library proposed that the building be renovated, expanded and shared with a second tenant.

Renderings of the winning team's plans show a three-story mixed-use private space rising from the building's roof, likely for use as housing. The design also includes a rooftop terrace that could be used by the public. Inside the building, existing brick walls would be replaced with glass, bringing more light into the library's internal recesses.

The renovation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library would cap off the more than $170 million worth of work that has been done on 17 public libraries throughout D.C. in recent years, a project spearheaded by recently retired Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper.

Critics of the renovation and redesign say that not enough public input has been taken during the planning process and that D.C. officials ignored calls for the building to be used for other public purposes, including a school, community college or as a location for the D.C. Archives.

D.C. has already set aside $103 million for the project.

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