Public library planned for the West Loop
June 1, 2018

Workers are repurposing an existing building to create the new library for the West Loop. Although it is called the Fulton-Haymarket Branch on the drawings, the name has yet to be determined.

By Eva Hofmann

The City recently began work on an existing building for the new West Loop branch of the Chicago Public Library (CPL), to be located at 118-122 N. Aberdeen St., across from the new McDonald’s corporate headquarters. This would be the only public library in the West Loop and, according to 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, will be a bright spot for families. “It will mean young people have somewhere to go,” he said. 

Community members repeatedly have identified a library as an important amenity for West Loop families, Burnett said.

Currently, the public libraries closest to the West Loop are the Roosevelt branch, 1101 W. Taylor St., the Manning branch at 6 S. Hoyne Ave., and the West Town branch, 1625 W. Chicago Ave.

“The West Loop is one of the fastest growing communities in Chicago, and it’s a service area that was not fully served,” said Patrick Molloy, CPL director of government and public affairs. “This building is in excellent condition, and layout is consistent with a modern library, so all things worked.”

At one point, according to Burnett, officials had planned to put the library in the old Coyne College campus in Fulton Market. The developer, Sterling Bay, rejected that plan, however, and considered two or three other sites in the neighborhood, including inside the new McDonald’s corporate headquarters building, before settling on the Aberdeen site. “The community wanted it to be more centrally located,” said Burnett.

“Sterling Bay donated the building,” said Burnett, noting how active the company is in the West Loop. “They built McDonald’s and Google, and they’re doing the hotel and now a movie theater in the community.”

Sterling Bay is working with CPL officials to design and rehab the two-story, 16,500-square-foot structure for library use and will complete the building donation to the City when construction concludes. Blinderman Construction will perform the renovations.

The ground floor consists of 10,000 square feet, with occupancy of 447 (338 in open areas and 109 in the community room). The space will include a children’s area as well as an adult and teen reading area and will provide computer workstations and a new media space.

Community spaces

Community spaces on the second level will feature an open area of 21,000 square feet of flex space along with five meeting and study rooms and two conference rooms that patrons may reserve.

Molloy credits community feedback and Burnett’s work in getting the much needed library into the neighborhood. “What really made it possible is Sterling Bay’s generosity,” he said.

Community feedback will play a role in naming the library. Project leaders proposed calling it the Fulton-Haymarket Branch, but this caused a stir on social media, so officials are reviewing options. Another possibility is naming the branch West Loop, after the community.

According to Molloy, the West Loop branch will be the first new library since the August 2015 opening of the award-winning Chicago Public Library in Chinatown. In fact, several new branches will open around this same time. “We have a gut renovation going on at the Whitney Young branch in Chatham,” said Molloy. In addition, CPL is working with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) on co-located senior housing and library developments.

The new West Loop branch will be the 81st of the CPL system, and the Chicago City Council already has approved the budget for staff needed to operate the facility.

The library’s design will offer amenities particularly geared to youngsters and teens.

Youth friendly

CPL’s goals for the library include: “nurture learning, support economic development, create community spaces.” To that end, the new branch will include an early childhood active learning space as well as programs and spaces for children, teens, and families. The library will offer free one-on-one homework assistance, and teens will have access to technology, resources, and classes that inspire exploration, creativity, and learning through the YOUmedia program. 

Amenities will include a “HO-MA-GO” (hanging out, messing around, geeking out) space for teens, with new media, vinyl cutters, 3D printers, and a recording studio, encouraging them to learn
together through play and experimentation.

Other, more traditional, library programs such as book clubs, job training, and educational sessions also are expected.

The new West Loop library will open as early as the end of 2018 and no later than early 2019. 

To contact Burnett, call (312) 432-1995 or log on to www.cityofchicago.org/Ward27. For more information from the CPL, log on to www.chipublib.org.