New Roosevelt Library building will include mixed-use residential housing
May 6, 2017

A Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill drawing of proposed new Roosevelt Branch Library, which also will feature housing units.

By Susan S. Stevens

The City has selected a design by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill for a combined new Roosevelt Branch Library and apartments at Taylor and Ada Streets.

At 1340 W. Taylor St., the building will be on what was once the site of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) ABLA Homes, due east of the planned National Public Housing Museum, the lone ABLA building remaining in the Roosevelt Square redevelopment area. The CHA, Chicago Public Library (CPL), and Chicago Department of Planning and Development officials unveiled the design choice on March 19. The library will be contained in a mixed-income residential building, with some CHA, some affordable, and some market-rate units offered, CHA spokeswoman Molly Sullivan said.

“While the exact unit mix is not yet determined, the affordable units will have rents for families at or below 60 percent of Area Median Income,” Sullivan said.

“CPL will operate the library; the apartment building will be developed and managed by Related
Midwest and Bickerdike Redevelopment – the joint developers for Roosevelt Square,” Sullivan said.

Larger library

The total number of apartments and each type of unit has not yet been determined. The new library will be “significantly” larger than the 8,000 square foot current library, but the actual size has not been determined. It will contain an early-learning space for children,
a dedicated media space for teens, a large community room, and smaller study rooms.

The current library at 1101 W. Taylor St. originally was built as a bank and is now owned by the University of Illinois at Chicago, which has offices on the third floor above the two floors rented by the library. Community meetings will be held to fine-tune the project, but no dates have been set.

Construction is targeted to begin by the beginning of 2018, with the library opening before the apartments, by the end of 2018, Sullivan said. The cost has not been determined, she said. Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill also designed the Chinatown Branch Library, the Richard J. Daley Center, and the Hancock Building.

Brian Lee, lead designer of the Chinatown Branch, led the conceptual design team for the new Roosevelt Branch.

“From the Chinatown Library, we learned how visible, accessible public space could add to the vitality of the neighborhood,” Lee said. “On the Near West Side, we aim to foster that same spirit of community with welcoming, flexible spaces that can respond to the needs of the residents both now and in the future.

‘Hub’ for community

“Designed to create a synergy between the two distinct programs, the building is envisioned as a new hub for the neighborhood,” Lee continued. “Positioned prominently at the corner of the site, the Roosevelt Branch Library welcomes the community inside, with soaring open spaces designed for kids, teenagers, and adults located adjacent to centralized work spaces for librarians and staff. Upstairs, a landscaped public rooftop is envisioned as an outdoor reading room for use by the public and residents alike.”

The new Roosevelt library will feature an early childhood space, homework assistance through the CPL Teacher in the Library program, and classes for teens in a CPL YOUmedia digital space. There also will be computer and job-finding classes for adults.

Angela Holtzman, a retired City librarian who remains a regular user of the library and a frequent attendee of its programs, said, “With the transformation of library services to reflect current patron needs, an updated facility is indeed necessary.”